Lance Armstrong has a lot to answer for. Chris Froome, the Team Sky cyclist and winner of the Tour de France, faced a plethora of questions and innuendo about doping after his performances quite literally left peers behind. Armstrong may no longer be on the Tour, but his damaged legacy still pervades.
Things came to head during the final week of the Tour when a suggestive article was published in Le Monde with Froome's most ardent critic, Antoine Vayerm, stating that the British cyclist had been "as fast as Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani" (both dopers in their day) during a demanding stage up Mont Ventoux. Team Sky, headed by the media savvy Dave Brailsford, responded by providing Froome's climbing data from the last two years to another newspaper, L'Equipe, thus allowing an independent expert to declare Froome's performances "coherent" and close to the "currently known physiological limits".
The fact that Froome and Team Sky had to deal with such questions is a prime example of the problems still faced by cycling. It's also an insight into how the collective reputation of an industry falls when one organisation is tarnished. It's a harsh reality, but no company can escape a fall in their sector's reputation.
The reputation benchmarking company, Alva, has demonstrated this many times. When the banking industry faced the Libor scandal, Alva showed that all banks faced a tangible reduction in their reputation. And BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster saw the reputation of all oil companies fall.
Reputation cannot be owned; it is the prevailing view of an organisation. Reputations are impacted by all publicly available data and coverage. An important component is the view, held by the public, opinion leaders and other stakeholders, of the industry an organisation is part of.
Time and time again, Alva has shown you can't escape your industry's reputation issues. Next time you are at an industry event, look around and ask yourself, "Do I trust these people to protect my organisation?" If not, then do something about it.
Being proactive in enhancing your reputation is good business. If done properly, it will improve your operations and reduce your business risk. Importantly, it will also help defend your much-valued reputation in a crisis through the addition of layers of insulation that will protect you when you need it most.
The cycling world has been working hard to build up its own insulation in recent months. Greater transparency, more media access and significant operational changes to their anti-doping procedures demonstrate that they know the scale of the problem they face.
For many, it is too little, too late though. Smart businesses don't get themselves into positions where such significant steps need to be taken in the glare of global media. Prevention is always better than cure. Be proactive with your reputation. And if your industry has a Lance Armstrong of its own, make sure you leave him behind on the reputational hills that face every business.