Professional Cycling Ethics

What does cycling culture have to do with your company culture?  Based on today’s press – Everything.

The professional cycling world hit a bump in the road today with the release of a report on the investigation into Lance Armstrong and doping allegations.  The report includes testimony from 26 witnesses detailed in the 202 page report.  There are witnesses that everyone has heard from and Armstrong was able to dismiss, such as Floyd Landis, and testimony from those who are beloved and Armstrong has indicated are close friends.

The overwhelming story line throughout the recent press is that this community had a culture where doping was not only prevalent, it was expected.  There are several examples of those who wrestled with their choices.

Today’s Wall Street Journal article “New Record in Cycling’s Race of Truth”, highlights a statement from “David Zabriskie, one of the sport’s beloved eccentrics.  ‘I questioned, I resisted,’ Zabriskie wrote, ‘but in the end, I felt cornered and succumbed to the pressure.’”  There was a confession from Christian Vande Velde.  There was a confession from Levi Leipheimer.  In the Wall Street Journal article “Leipheimer: Why I Doped”, Leipheimer writes “doping was organized and everywhere…  (it) wasn’t the exception, it was the norm…  Right or wrong, in my mind the choice was ‘do it or go home.’  For me that was not a choice.”

In a culture where people are encouraged or even expected to cheat to succeed, you will get cheating.  Studies show that the vice versa is also true.  If the culture encourages ethical behavior, you will be far more likely to get ethical behavior.  So, the question is, which culture does your company have?  Most organizations fall somewhere in the middle.  Given penalties and fines and potential reputational damage that could shutter a business, the financial case for having an ethical culture is obvious.

The good news for the cycling world is that this low point will help move the culture towards one without doping.  How can you and your organization use this to improve your culture?