Who will you call when a scandal strikes?

Endurance sport is coming increasingly under the spotlight from anti-drugs agencies and watchdogs attempting to stamp out cheating in sport. This is especially true for cycling. Cycling one day classics in the cobbles of Belgium and Northern France or the Grand Tours of France, Italy and Spain, which last for weeks, are undoubtedly arduous physical challenges for the athletes. With large financial rewards at stake, the temptations to enhance performance as best as possible – by bending the rules – are many. However, cycling teams do this at risk of leaving their reputations, and those of their riders, in tatters.

In the world of cycling, Team Sky supremo Dave Brailsford and Sir Bradley Wiggins have come under fire from the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) which concluded, after its year long investigation into drugs cheating in sport, that Brailsford and Wiggins had ‘crossed an ethical line’.

This is alleged to have happened because of the way the team used a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) to enable certain riders to use medicines that, although legitimate for use to treat specific medical conditions, can also enhance performance. The use of such drugs is not banned and it is, I think, quite easy to stretch a point and bend the rules without actually breaking them… and therefore cheating.

While they may not have cheated, the reputation of Team Sky and its management has been irreparably damaged. This is problematic for a sport that has long had an uneasy relationship with doping – think Lance Armstrong. The philosophy of marginal gains is fine. But there needs to be complete transparency in the use of TUEs and what drugs and treatment riders are undergoing to quash any suspicions of wrong doing – particularly since Team Sky made a point of transparency and getting its house in order in terms of drug cheating when Dave Brailsford joined as Team Director a few years ago.

The same should be true in the business world. Where a brand is thought to be behaving in an unethical way, but not actually doing anything illegal, it needs to come clean. Transparency is vital in maintaining reputation and integrity. It’s also important that a business doesn’t get into activities, that may be perceived by stakeholders as bending the rules beyond what is ethical. When this happens, reputations are damaged and may be tarnished forever. That’s when having a good crisis management strategy is important.

At OlsenMetrix, we can help you to manage your reputation. We can devise strategies that will help you manage any crisis. Visit our website for more information… 

Inevitably a crisis will lead to queries from the media. We can help you with these too by ensuring you and your staff have the appropriate training to deal with the media

After all - it’s always good to be prepared for the worst. A lesson Team Sky has learned.