Businesses and individuals are today expected to practice what they preach. It is no longer good enough for an annual donation to charity, FTSE 100 businesses are expected to have comprehensive corporate social responsibility programmes which are not merely statements of intent but guidelines for best practice. If the media or shareholders notice a gap between rhetoric and the reality then they will be quick to hold the transgressor to account.
The reputation of some sports has suffered through similar lack of candour, transparency and willingness to practice what is preached. Most notably professional cycling. This is why I shouted with joy when self confessed former drugs cheat, David Millar won a stage of this year’s Tour de France. Many will ask why we should applaud one of many cyclists who have cheated and sullied the reputation of their sport?
Millar’s approach since being arrested by French police and admitting to doping in 2004 has been to use his position to campaign for clean cycling as well as proving it is possible to win clean. Unlike others who have made comebacks after suspensions for doping offences, Millar has never shied away from his past and instead uses it as a constant reminder of what cycling used to be like. Friday was no different with Millar stating at the finish “I’m an ex-doper and I'm clean now, and I want to show everyone that it's possible to win clean on the Tour”.
His victory came exactly 45 years after Tom Simpson, the first Briton to wear the Tour’s yellow jersey, died on the slopes of Mont Ventoux after using a lethal mix of amphetamines and alcohol to aid performance. Since Millar’s comeback he has been at the vanguard of a new generation of cyclists and teams who are transparent in their activities and promote a zero-tolerance approach to doping. Millar has been relentless in his approach since his comeback in 2006, not just saying he is anti-doping but using every possible way to communicate this. He himself no longer uses any form of injections, is an adviser to various sports and anti-doping bodies globally, has written a book about his experiences, is also co-owner and captain of one of teams driving the new transparently clean approach in cycling.
As he recovered after winning the longest stage in possibly the hardest sporting event of all he said, “I've won today as a clean rider, after making the same mistake that Tom [Simpson] made. I've shown where cycling has come in the last 45 years – even the last five years”. Good communicators use every opportunity to get their message across, David Millar did this through words and deeds this week which makes him my Communicator of the Week.
*This post was first published on the Dale & Co. megablog.