After Lance Armstrong doping: Time for Nike to just do it – fairly
By taking the initiative to donate funds to anti-doping agencies and research, the company would not only help redeem itself ethically after steadfastly backing Armstrong and other Nike athletes who’ve doped. It would also boost its brand image – and surely its market share.
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And for many of them, figures like ARod, Armstrong, and track-star Marion Jones were their heroes – propped up by lucrative endorsement deals from companies such as Nike that fueled their role-model profiles. All three have admitted to doping or steroid use.Skip to next paragraph
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Do we really want future generations to view the world as Armstrong or others did – that the rules don’t apply to them, that taking shortcuts in the workplace is acceptable, as long as you can get away with it, and that lying and cheating come with the territory?
Sports are big business, and conglomerate Nike knows this better than anyone else. But at what point should it stop being about just the bottom line and become more about the honest line?
If we learned anything from Victor Conte, the mastermind behind Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), which developed and distributed the banned steroid THG, it’s that organizations such as USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) need more tools and resources to keep pace with the modern-day drug cheat.
Armstrong, himself, admitted that cycling’s adoption of the Athlete’s Biological Passport, a detailed electronic record of blood and urine samples, and a greater emphasis on out-of-competition drug testing made living his charade more difficult. The problem, though, is that implementing such measures comes at a price. It took years and millions of taxpayer dollars to build a case against Armstrong.
Scientist Don Catlin, one of the world’s foremost anti-doping crusaders, recently wrote that “If we can’t afford to give anti-doping a fighting chance by providing the movement with the financial resources needed to effectuate change, then we are part of the problem and we can settle in for a continuing parade of scandals.”
Armstrong revealed that as a result of recent events, he lost $75 million in future endorsements in a single day. Since WADA and USADA’s combined annual operating budget is in the neighborhood of $40 million, it is clear that the good guys, like Mr. Tygart, are overmatched.
This is where Nike, on behalf of clean athletes and fair play, has an ethical and moral obligation – and a brand incentive – to step in.
Imagine the message it would send if the company pledged an amount to WADA and USADA that approached the rumored $250 million sponsorship deal it recently signed with golfer Rory McIlroy, for example.
Imagine the goodwill Nike would generate if it chose to finally be proactive in the fight against PEDs rather than merely passive. It could sell t-shirts with the slogan “Just Do It FAIRLY,” and also white rubber wristbands to symbolically commemorate the clean athlete.
Imagine a world in which every sponsor of television’s premiere sporting events, such as the recent Super Bowl, followed Nike’s lead, and donated a portion of each endorsement contract signed with athletes and/or teams to the fight against doping.
I know Travis Tygart would appreciate it. So would I – and billions of sports fans around the world. And it’s safe to say a great number of them would express that appreciation with their wallets.
Tito Morales is the author of Forward Swim and is a former contributing editor for Swimming World magazine.