What's Cool In Road Cycling

Comment: Amgen, EPO, and Tour of California

Amgen, the makers of EPO, have stepped up as title sponsor of the Tour of California. Gee, some folks out there think this is bad for the sport… we think it deserves a comment.

So Amgen sponsors the Tour De Terminator?
So What! Not to knock one back in the face of the Cycling public, but I think we’re missing the point…

This isn’t about the fact that cyclists or Olympic cross country skiers use their product. This doesn’t run parallel to the Mafia and the Catholic Church, or Big Oil, Bush and War in the Middle East… This isn’t the fox owning the hen house.

One thing you can be extremely damn sure of is that pro cyclists are, for the most part, broke. Other than the riders supported by rich parents, cyclists not named Armstrong, Hincapei, Basso, Ullrich et all, have a tough enough time paying for health insurance, much less being able to support a production line at a major pharmaceutical corp. If every pro cyclist on the planet wanted EPO, very few could afford it, and even if they all could, it wouldn’t amount to enough profit to support the expense tab for a single Amgen drug rep, much less sponsor an entire stage race…

This is simply a matter of Amgen wanting the genuinely sick people that need these drugs to associate their brand with not just feeling better, but feeling athletic and strong. In fairness, I believe that Amgen also like the impression some people may get that their drugs can make the ill not just well, but that some of their drugs can make them feel like Superman. It’s simply two levels of a sales pitch to the people that really need the medicine…

Some of the cycling public complain that OLN sacrificed the entire year’s cycling coverage to show 552 hours of Lance. What we so readily forget is that we don’t rally enough money as a group to drive enough sponsors to make us equal to a barbeque cook off… But we can all get together and stand up and shout “Don’t let this happen, we shouldn’t be associated with drugs!”

This isn’t about Amgen selling doping products to athletes (there’s no money in that). It is in fact a company capitalizing, at least in large part, on the positive association between cycling and health and fitness. It is a company that is putting up a large amount of cash to promote our sport.

Hopefully enough skinny people will get behind it and support it, rather than picketing in front of it in protest. Hopefully there are enough skinny people behind it, supporting it with voice and money, that we can displace the fat-assed barbeque people on OLN for at least one of the late night spots…

Get more info on the Tour of California website.

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