According to a source close to former RadioShack-Nissan Trek manager, Johan Bruyneel may admit that his personal logo is a graphic representation of doping.
“It was an inside joke but obviously it’s not so inside anymore,” said lead designer Eric Giff, a principal at international branding company Bandor & Associates which developed the Bruyneel logo. “Mr Bruyneel gave us a clear direction for graphic development and the design was pretty organic.” Giff has been called to testify in the upcoming USADA arbitration hearing with Bruyneel.
Until now, the Bruyneel logo, found most prominently on his personal website, showed a sharp angular point piercing a hole into a circle. Now, cycling critics are outraged by the less than subtle doping reference.
“It’s a syringe, that’s abundantly clear,” said Naomi Watson, a Professor of Visual Linguists at the University of California at Berkeley. “The needle breaks the circle, the skin, and you can’t miss the overt symbolism.”
The Bruyneel “needle” design has come under particular fire in the wake of the “Reasoned Decision” contained in the USADA report. Both Bruyneel and his now disgraced star Lance Armstrong were named as responsible for running the most sophisticated and professionalized doping program in the history of sports.
It appears the “needle piercing skin” logo is part of a wider and subtle set of code words and graphic sign posts for doping and banned substances. Edgar Allen Poe became the secret reference and word twist for the blood booster drug EPO. Now some experts believe that Bruyneel was also “visually encouraging” doping.”
“When you talk about identity and branding, it’s all story telling,” said Watson. “It’s a visual call to action, “let’s dope, let’s stick the needle in.” The design glorifies a prohibited behavior.”
Travis Tygart, the CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, did not specifically investigate allegations of encouraging doping in a two dimensional graphic form. However, with Bruyneel’s arbitration hearing scheduled before the end of the year, additional evidence may in fact be introduced.
“You’re trying to prove that a specific environmental conditions led to doping so it makes perfect sense,” said Michael Dawkins, a researcher in the field of visual perception. “If the goal is to reinforce a behavior — even an illegal one — then a graphic like a needle into the skin supports that behavior. It transforms the aberrant into the normal.”
While UCI President Patrick McQuaid ratified the stripping of Armstrong’s seven Tour de France titles, he stopped short of offering an opinion on the Bruyneel logo.
“We have a Management Committee meeting scheduled for October 26th,” said McQuaid. “At that time, we will discuss the sporting consequences of the Armstrong case and the possibility that Bruyneel has subliminally promoted doping through his logo design.”