In an interview yesterday on news of his doping ban, Alberto Contador says money is causing many problems in the sport. He blames the UCI for a lack of interest in addressing this problem with maximum salary or team budget limits.
On the other hand, many women cyclists have recently been quite vocal with regard to lack of sponsorship in women’s cycling and blames the UCI for the lack of minimum salary regulations.
So where is the happy medium? Is money destroying our sport?
In the exclusive Cyclismas interview, Contador says: “I think the pressure on the peloton is immense. Based on the amount of money in the sport now, it is easier to come to doping products…but the real problem is all the promises the UCI makes to the sponsors of the sport to keep them investing.”
In my opinion, men’s cycling has become a big Hollywood style reality TV show. The sponsors are the scriptwriters, the team managers are the producers and the riders are the actors. The athletes have lost control of their lives and their own destiny, they are merely doing as they are told. In Contador’s words, “Yes, it is tough to know where to go anymore. Team owners want something from you. Sponsors want something. UCI wants something. We riders have no one that looks after our interests. A team owner says, you’re going to get a vitamin shot, so you’d better take it now. How do I know it’s vitamins?”
In contrast, women’s cycling is suffering a lack of TV coverage, resulting in a struggle for sponsorship to keep teams and races going. Our sport is labeled not exciting enough to warrant good media coverage. I am a passionate promoter of women’s cycling, but when I see what is happening to men’s cycling I sometimes wonder, do we really want what they have?
It seems to me that the true meaning of the sport is being lost to the name of entertainment. In the twentieth century we live in a world where better is faster. This is what we think makes life exciting. But my question is, what has happened to the passion, the love of the sport, acting as role models and ambassadors? What has happened to sportsmanship?
According to Wikipedia, sportsmanship typically is regarded as a component of morality in sport, composed of three related and perhaps overlapping concepts: fair play, sportsmanship and character.
Fair play refers to all participants having an equitable chance to pursue victory and acting toward others in an honest, straightforward, and firm and dignified manner even when others do not play fairly. It includes respect for others, including team members, opponents, and officials.
Character refers to dispositions, values, and habits that determine the way that a person normally responds to desires, fears, challenges, opportunities, failures, and successes, and is typically seen in polite behaviors toward others, such as helping an opponent up or shaking hands after a match.
So what has happened to the sportsmanship?
Why is it that for sport to be exciting it has to be faster? What happened to the appeal of human character as entertainment? Is it that in this modern day and age, with the ever changing technology and science at hand, that athletes are expected to become more robotic?
Do we want to see perfectly performing machines, which I feel is unnatural. Or would it not be more entertaining to see real people battling it out to the best of their abilities, in the spirit of good sportsmanship?
I choose the latter, but feel free to let me know what you think.