Kristen Mitchell / Campus editor
With recent revelations on Lance Armstrong’s doping history, the sport of cycling hasn’t been getting a lot of good press.
After a string of accusations, Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during the course of his legendary cycling career, including his seven Tour de France wins. As a result, he has been stripped of his coveted titles and many fans’ high opinions of him.
Some have wondered whether cycling can recover from the scandal surrounding its most famous athlete, but some local organizers for Pelotonia, a Columbus charity cycling event, don’t think it will have a negative effect on the success of Columbus cycling.
Karl Koon, development officer for Arthur G. James and Richard J. Solove Research Institute and organizer for Team Buckeye, said it’s important not to base judgements of the sport and culture of cycling on one individual.
“That’s one person. You never put someone on a pedestal because they’re sure to fall off,” Koon said. “I think that it’s very unfortunate, but I don’t think it has any impact on what we’re doing at all.”
Registration numbers reflect that at least by appearances, the incident doesn’t seem to be deterring riders.
With more than six months until the start of the race, more than 1,100 participants have already registered for the race and have raised more than $135,000 as of Monday evening.
The event runs from Aug. 9-11 and gives bikers the option of riding a 25-, 50-, 75-, 100-, 155- or 180-mile route. Riders commit to raising a minimum specified amount of money based on the distance of their route, which goes to The James at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, Koon said. Last year, the event raised $16.9 million for cancer research.
“All of this money stays right here at Ohio State, every single dime of it,” Koon said. “We have used Pelotonia money to provide equipment at the James, that money has been used to recruit some of the world’s brightest doctors … We have some of the brightest minds in the world right here who are all a part of the James, and who are doing research studies and who are doing important work, and much of that is funded through Pelotonia.”
Team Buckeye, OSU’s super-Peloton, is made up of faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university. Last year the team and its 1,635 riders and other contributors raised $2.2 million of the final total. More than 300 of those riders were students.
Koon said to make getting started a little easier for students, Pelotonia offers a discounted registration cost and slighlty lower fundraising commitments.
Koon said 83 percent of last year’s Team Buckeye reported participating in the event because they were touched by cancer in some way – either they had been diagnosed or a friend or family member had battled cancer.
Doreen Agnese, a surgical oncologist and assistant professor at the Medical Center, rode in her first Pelotonia event three years ago, just months after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She said she will be riding in Pelotonia 2013 as a cancer survivor and in memory of loved ones she has lost to cancer.
“It’s a community effort to try and cure cancer,” Agnese said. “Everybody is going to have a different level of participating and they’re all important. If you can’t ride, great, volunteer. If you can’t volunteer, donate. Anything that anyone in the community can do to hopefully make a cure here at Ohio State would be amazing.”
Agnese said she was disappointed to hear about Armstrong’s doping because it detracts from the cancer awareness he’s been a part of over the past few years.
“It’s unfortunate because he’s done a lot of good work in terms of survivorship from cancer, and it’s kind of sad that there was so much, I guess, cheating,” she said. “Still, it’s a community effort to try and cure cancer and look at it in a positive way. And whatever we can do to try and end cancer in our lifetime would be a good thing.”