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Thomas Fox
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Tom Fox: In British cycling and Uber, culture matters

One really cannot argue with the success of the British cycling program. As noted in an editorial in the Financial Times, in the most recent three Olympics the team has won 38 medals, 22 of which were gold.

When you add the fact that four of the past five Tour de France winners where Britons Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins, it speaks of stunning achievements.

However, “in late 2016, a series of disclosures began to change the picture.”

First were the disclosures that Sir Bradley had been given three “therapeutic use exemptions” which allowed him to receive steroid injections, allegedly for asthma. Just coincidently the steroid injections came before “big races, including his 2012 Tour victory.”

In the medical arena, there was a “mystery package” of drugs delivered to a British coach during the 2011 Tour and was never explained.

Finally, there were claims of bullying and sexism leveled against the former team director.

The world of sports often provides lessons for the compliance professional. I was interested in the lessons drawn by the UK’s leading business daily newspaper.

The Financial Times editorial staff drew a direct parallel between the actions of British Cycling and Uber, calling them “striking” by observing, “When victory in the market comes before attention to basic processes and standards, trouble follows, because success all but guarantees that the processes will be examined retroactively.”

The bottom line is that culture matters. If it is to disrupt a long staid marketplace, through laser-focused Ayn Rand-inspired objectivism, at some point, the rest of the business world catches up. If you don’t have a culture of compliance you may well have nothing to fall back on.

For Uber and the future of its chief executive, Travis Kalanick, it remains an open question whether he has the wherewithal to take the company public, with all the attendant scrutiny and most importantly requisite public company controls.

For British Cycling, “it would likely have won fewer medals. Those it won, however, would have retained more of their lustre.”


Tom Fox is a Contributing Editor of the FCPA Blog. He has practiced law in Houston for 30 years. He’s the creator of the award winning FCPA Compliance and Ethics website. He is the Compliance Evangelist. His best-selling seminal book, “Best Practices Under the FCPA and Bribery Act: How to Create a First Class Compliance Program” (available from Amazon here) is widely viewed as one of the top volumes on the nuts and bolts of compliance.

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