Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Not-So-Wonderful Side of Team Novo Nordisk (TT1)

Everyone knows that people with diabetes are supposed to exercise in order to have better control of their health.  Although the vast majority of these claims are aimed at those living with Type 2 diabetes, it has been proven that exercise helps everyone living with diabetes, regardless of the type.

In recent years, a few organizations have formed to promote exercise with individuals living with diabetes.  One such organization is Insulindependence, based in California.

Taken from the Insulindependence website

Their goal is more about reaching out to every diabetic that desires to exercise and help them so they are able to do so.  By having this as their mission statement, it implies that they are open and accepting of everyone, regardless of athletic ability or experience.

The second organization that was formed with a diabetes and sports foundation was Team Type 1.  Based in Atlanta, Georgia, it was founded as a cycling team that later would go on to include triathlon, running, and women's cycling teams.  Due to a recent sponsorship deal, they now go by Team Novo Nordisk.

The mission Team Novo Nordisk, formally known as Team Type 1, is:

What is Team Novo Nordisk?

Team Novo Nordisk began as a grassroots initiative to motivate people to take control of their diabetes using cycling as a platform. It grew to become a world-class athletic program for athletes with diabetes, including a professional men’s cycling team, poised to compete at the Tour de France. Today, it is a global sports organization changing the lives of people with diabetes around the world through racing, groundbreaking research, international outreach and philanthropic initiatives in developing countries.


We strive to instill hope and inspiration for people around the world affected by diabetes. With appropriate diet, exercise, treatment and technology, we believe anyone with diabetes can achieve their dreams.
(taken from the Novo Nordisk website)

More or less, it appears that the mission statements of the two organizations, although worded differently, are trying to do the same thing - motivate others to take better control of their diabetes.  However, there is one major difference.  While Insulindependence makes no mention of the type of athlete on their team, Team Novo Nordisk says that they are a "world-class athletic program."  This statement implies that the athletes on the team are successful, given that they are a world-class athletic program.  On the running teams webpage, the following is said:


Team Novo Nordisk Running is comprised of 22 elite runners, all who excel in athletics despite, training, racing and living every day with type 1 diabetes. Team Novo Nordisk Running will compete on the largest stages in running this season, from the Boston Marathon to the Western States 100 Mile Run, and many events in between. 
As you can see, they say that they are a team comprised of elite athletes with diabetes.  Contrary to what they state, there are only 21 athletes listed on their team page, not 22.  

Last year, I applied to be part of the team from some encouragement from a few other diabetics.  
Thinking about it from a purely mathematical approach, I thought my chances were good.  If you take the number of diabetics, then reduce it by the number that run, I thought I would rank fairly high in comparison to others, especially when thinking about other diabetic women runners.

Last year, I wasn't informed that I didn't make the team.  I read on another blog that that person made the team to realize that I hadn't, which greatly disappointed me.   I blogged about my disappointment without stating that I was frustrated with their organization.  I thought there lack-of communication was unprofessional, especially if the organization is attempting to inspire others.

From last year to this year, I learned more about the team from various people.  It appears as though many "diabetic common folk" think the team is wonderful and have no issues with the organization and how its run.  But the facts that I have learned over the past few years tell a different story.  

Did you know that there is no application to be part of the women's cycling team?  Yet, to be on the running team a person must fill out a 2-page application, which also includes essays.  I find this odd, because both teams are operating under the same leadership team.  The process to get on a team should be the same - no matter what team one wants to be on.

If you fast-forward to this year, I decided to apply yet again.  Not knowing why I didn't make the team last year, I thought it was possibly because I had not run a marathon yet.  With 2 marathons, one being a BQ, under my belt, I thought I had a better shot and my race resume was also much stronger now.  In their statement on the running page they do state Boston being "large stage running race," which is my next marathon.

It also crossed my mind that I didn't get on the team because they didn't have any females on the team.  Last year, all members of the running team were male, except for their coach.  If the mission is to inspire all athletes, I don't know why you wouldn't have both male and female representatives, as there are diabetic  boys, girls, women, and men that could be inspired.

When I applied this year, I wanted to get some questions answered first.  My questions were simple: are females allowed on your team?  when is the application due?  when will I be notified?  I feel like all of my questions were logical and valid.  However, after a month of no response, I sent an email to the women's cycling director.  I hoped she could motivate the men to get organized.  The next day, I was sent an email that said they were still finalizing the team, which would be out in "the first quarter of 2013."

A few days ago, I went on Twitter to see that Team Novo Nordisk tweeted about their new website.  Being curious, I clicked on the link to see how it was different.  I saw the "team" tab, and realized that some of their teams had been updated from their previous website, noticing the running team was one of them.

Realizing that they had finally accepted two women onto their running team was a step in the right direction.  However, their lack of communication was still disappointing, as I was not notified that I didn't make the team and wondered why I was not selected.  After looking at the two women on the team (Missy Foy is not mentioned on the team page anymore), the facts state that I am faster.

I can't support an organization that does not truly abide by its own philosophy.  They say that "it (team novo nordisk) grew to become a world-class athletic program for people with diabetes..."  and that they have elite runners on their running team.  How is a 28 or 29 minute 5k runner world class or an elite runner?  That wouldn't even be a sub-9-minute mile pace for a 3-mile race.  

I think the team means well, but lacks consistency and communication.  It is as if they tried to do too much too soon, instead of trying to do one thing well.  Only having male representatives doesn't inspire everyone living with diabetes, nor do slow runners when you claim they are elite.

Perhaps this organization should look at their team statements and see if they really want to follow them, or do they just want to create a training group for athletes with diabetes instead, instead of those who are elite or close to it?

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