Is this bike race sponsorship dopey?

Bu_bike1Sometimes event sponsorships can send the wrong message, as Budweiser found out with its ill-fated "Bud Pong" games. Biotech firm Amgen kicked up a fuss in the cycling world this week by announcing it signed on as the title sponsor the Tour of California, a 700-mile bike race. The problem is Amgen is the maker of synthetic erythropoietin, or EPO, a very useful drug used by anemia-plagued chemotherapy patients to increase their red blood cell production for more energy.  But, EPO is also the favored form of doping for cyclists and other endurance athletes to get more oxygen to their muscles. The sport’s crown prince, Lance Armstrong, has long been the subject of EPO-use accusations by the European press, and a French sports lab recently claimed it was found in his blood during the 1999 Tour de France. Amgen said its sponsorship is to promote a healthy lifestyle and educate cyclists on the proper use of EPO. Some cycling bloggers have already rechristened the race the “Tour of EPO.” On NPR’s All Things Considered, Velo News editor Charles Pelkey said Amgen’s sponsorship was akin to Budweiser sponsoring AA meetings.

—Posted by Brian Morrissey