There is a lot of talk in cycling circles about a breakaway league and a new head of the UCI. It is this writer’s opinion that the answer to professional cycling’s current troubles is bored American billionaire, Mark Cuban. The story of his life as a hip guy with more money that the GNP of Azerbaijan is currently captured on U.S. television on the sitcom Two and a Half Men, where Ashton Kutcher plays Cuban aka Walden Schmidt in a thinly veiled biopic of a guy who made billions in the smoke and mirrors of the internet biz and has a lot of time and money on his hands.
Cuban lucked into his money during the dot-com boom by selling a company he started, Broadcast.com, to Yahoo in 1999 for almost $6 billion. Shortly after Yahoo bought Broadcast.com, they realized that no one really knew what it was, or what to do with it, but the name sounded good, so they immediately shelved the company.
This left Cuban with a lot of money and a lot of free time, so he diversified. He purchased the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association so he wouldn’t have to stand in line at the concession stand at NBA games and could hang out in a pro sports locker room. He bought a chain of movie theaters so, once again, he wouldn’t have to stand in the concession line. He also owns Magnolia Pictures so now he can hang out with Johnny Depp. To complete the circle, he invested in a company that makes high-tech toilets.
According to Cuban, “People tend to approach technology the same way, whether it’s in front of them or behind them.”
Money isn’t the only reason Cuban should run cycling. His stance on performance-enhancing drugs parallels many in the sport. In 2009, Cuban, speaking at a University of Pittsburgh forum, was quoted as saying “I’ll get killed for saying this … but I’m not so against steroids if they’re administered under proper supervision and there is no long-term damage,” he went on to add “We do performance-enhancing things all the time, just not steroids,” Cuban added. “If you administer them properly and fairly and set the rules strictly, as long as in doing so we recognize there are no negative long-term health-impact issues.”
What better laboratory that Professional Cycling? We already have 30+ years of research in the subject of doing whatever it takes to win. Think of the possibilities. Cuban hires Dr. Michele Ferrari as science director for the new league and Johan Bruyneel will serve as commissioner. Under their supervision, soon we will have riders putting out 2500 watts up Alpe d’Huez with 36” thighs and 10” biceps. Riders’ physiques will resemble that of the praying mantis. Paris Roubaix will become a sprint race. And still, Andy Schleck will finish no better than second in the Tour de France.
With the money the new league saves on testing, they can establish a profit-sharing plan with the teams, meaning that even teams like Garmin Barracuda will have a chance. All teams will be sponsored by drug companies, with initiatives to get PED’s into vending machines in schools in exchange for a new scoreboard for the football field or new lacrosse equipment, etc.
Soon, we won’t have to tell little Johnny’s parents that he just doesn’t have the talent to make the soccer club. We’ll just get him a prescription for The Official Steroid of Pro Cycling™ (all right’s reserved) and his sports program will go from “every child is a winner” to “every child can bench press twice his own weight.” Yes, there will be some issues with head enlargement, severe acne, and ‘roid rage, but that’s the price we pay for athletic success.
In closing, I look forward to this new breakaway league. Races that used to take five hours will be cut to two, and we will only need to watch the last 60 minutes to catch the final 90k. There will be no more of those boring rest days to interrupt our enjoyment of Grand Tours, and we’ll have Mark Cuban to thank. Maybe a statue of his likeness would be in order.