Public apology

May 30, 2011

In Friday’s blog, I wrote that the media had “shown absolutely zero critical attitude towards the misgivings of cycling”.

While I would maintain there is a lack of critical attitude in cycling (and sports) journalism in general, to say that there is none does an injustice to the journalists who have – for years – worked tirelessly to uncover the dark side of cycling.

It was particularly dumb of me to make that statement since there are a few journalists whose writing I follow closely EXACTLY BECAUSE they are not afraid of the reprisals that writing the whole truth bring.

Here is the conundrum sports reporters/journalists face:

  • In order to make a living, you need to have access to the athletes.
  • If you do your job properly, some of the things you write will not please the athletes.
  • If you write stuff they don’t like, that access disappears.

As a result, there are few journalists (as in people who ask the tough questions and don’t mind digging for the inconvenient stuff) and lots of reporters (people who go with the flow and tell you the stuff you can already see for yourself). As of late we can witness reporters who suddenly want to look like journalists by writing about Lance Armstrong’s problematic past. But that doesn’t count, if you’re a real journalist you should have written that stuff five years ago (like Paul Kimmage for example) when it would have hurt your career, not today with Armstrong’s power in the sport waning. Of course, Kimmage’s example shows exactly why most people steered clear of writing such stories.

Therefore, I would like to offer a sincere apology to those journalists who – despite being bullied, blacklisted, and exorcised – were willing to write the ugly stories over the past decade and who hopefully will continue to do so. May eternal fame, fortune and fanbase be your reward.

12 Responses to “Public apology”

  1. betsy andreu Says:

    Amen!

  2. SlapshotJC Says:

    Seeing the light….fantastic, thank you Gerard Vroomen


  3. [...] reporting of cycling news. In a new item on his blog, Cervélo co-founder Gerard Vroomen’s written a sort of apology to some cycling writers, after previously stating the media “had shown absolutely zero [...]


  4. I admire people that are capable of admitting their mistakes (I made the same on my last comment). That’s how a person earns respect!

    Thank you Gerard!

  5. Mike Anderson Says:

    Hell yes!

  6. Shawn Says:

    G,
    Kudos on your apology post. I have a few years’ experience in the business of pro & NCAA sports. The point you bring up about journalists “piling on the low hanging fruit” could be addressed in two ways.
    First, industry stake holders must insist on keeping the sport clean. This can be done through punitive actions for misconduct (i.e.: banning dopers and those who allow the practice from happening) as well as through public humiliation. If fans, the industry and racers don’t take a stand to make a change then similar results are likely to reoccur. If a participant breaks the rules they should be excluded. The issue this raises is who writes, approves and enforces the rules?
    Second, an active NGO / worldwide central governing body would benefit competitive cycling. As a follower of many North American team sports and golf I am familiar with the commissioners and their efforts to promote their sports’ integrity. The average North American sports fan may not be aware of any leadership in competitive cycling. In this regard cycling is like boxing—an activity without a leader by consent. As long as this is the case it is likely the only time the general public will be reminded of competitive cycling, much like boxing, is because of scandal instead of athletic achievement or spectacle.
    Governing bodies can also maintain press access to athletes through decree and a media department. They also introduce competition-based and community involvement /cause related content to the media more effectively than current individual stakeholders seem to.
    Cycling, like most action sports is not built on leagues and at times seems to embody a sense of independence from establishments. The organization that is closest to a cycle-oriented governing body that I am familiar with is Ironman. This may be because of their series of competitions, the paid programming on NBC or the branded Timex products but that group has taken charge of its brand.
    It is said there is a rift between triathletes and cyclists. How would we, as individual stake holders and collectively, benefit from being aware of our situation and sharing the road?
    Thanks, Shawn
    PS: I love my P1. Viva the Vroom!

  7. Neil Says:

    Shawn
    The worldwide governing body for cycling is called the UCI and provides the rule framework for cycling competitions excluding tri. Competitive cycling within the USA is controlled by USAC which is affiliated in turn to the UCI. IIRC National bodies are able to set their own rules for national racing but the top level events follow the UCI rules (hence the furore regarding team radios, sign off of bike design etc)

  8. Cian Hogan Says:

    I read your piece on doping in cycling, and found it so refreshing. It was wondeful to see such straight talking. By referring to subjects like the Giro on ’06, or the fact that Basso , Contador, Vino etc are feted in their homeland, you really spoke the truth.
    There is a right and a wrong, and by not denouncing the cheats ‘repentant’ or not, we are making a sham of the sport.
    This from a man, whom has invested so much time and energy into it, seen success, and feels some of it was tainted by the spectre of doping.
    That was very brave, and very refreshing.
    Thank you Mr. Vroomen, thank you for defending my sport, thank you for being a supplier or manufacture who does not want to be complicit with cheating.
    I do not own a Cervelo, but that more than article, more than any image or victory, speaks more to me as a consumer.
    Well done

  9. veloscente Says:

    I’m with Betsy & Cian: it’s refreshing to hear someone with a major, vested financial interest in cycling speak to what is truly on the minds of intelligent & informed cycling fans.

    It does seem that your reporting / journalism critique really only fits English language media in general, and North American cycling media in particular.

    As demonstrated by their recent publication and analysis of the UCI Passport’s “Suspicion Ranking,” L’Equipe has been doing serious investigative journalism of the dark side of cycling for well over a decade.

    I also closely follow German media coverage of cycling. For those who have followed German media since the Ullrich/Puerto affair broke, it is safe to say German journalists have been not just hyper-critical but downright obsessed with digging up dirt on professional cycling to the point that the broader public now regards the sport with cynicism.
    Not that cycling hasn’t earned its share of opprobrium, but all this single-minded negative attention to cycling by a press that uncritically celebrates sports like soccer 365 days a year has led to the toxic PR situation that has killed off the Telekom, Gerolsteiner, & Milram, sponsorships, leaving Europe’s single largest language-based viewership population without even a single ProTour level team.

    It would seem that what both US & German cycling media have in common is a lack of “balanced” journalism.

  10. WillyVoet Says:

    Lots of journalist “gone native”. Huge problem!

  11. remotemike Says:

    Apology or not, you made an extremely important point. So far as I know, investigation is the duty of every other kind of journalist (other than a “sports journalist”). Merely reporting the quotes or the results does not make one fit to call oneself a journalist. But there is something else more troubling, something that prevents facts already known from getting reported. Someone the other day again made the ridiculous statement that cycling has done more to police itself for doping than any other sport. How can that possibly be printed (Cycling News?) without pointing out that something like 90% of winners of the grand tours in the past decade are tainted or convicted? Some “journalist” could easily put together the list, but none has. How can you talk about self-policing without mentioning that confessed dopers (Riis, Zabel, etc.) are allowed to manage, including policing doping, current teams, or that other managers have had huge numbers of confessed or convicted dopers pass through their teams (i’m referring to the guy who has managed Hamilton, Landis, Hincapie, Heras, and a certain more infamous cyclist under investigation). These are obvious facts and blaring stories that no “journalist” will touch, presumably because of fear of being shunned in the locker room. Some fans, like myself, are always in the surreal – we read and hear things, but never the things we know. Most, like my wife the very disappointed former fan, have been steered away from the truth by the puffery that passes for cycling journalism. Boy I wish things would change.


  12. [...] still a bit wary of his new “truth-speaker” persona. This is coming off the back of a mea culpa blog post apologising for describing the cycling media as being “uncritical”. Also this comes at a time when Vroomen is effectively “out” of the game as he is no [...]


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