this article originally appeared on The Roar
It seems to be catching, like the sniffly cold your kid brings back from school that explodes into full-blown influenza and ravages the household. Except this isn’t merely a cold virus – it seems that several members of the cycling fraternity have developed collective amnesia.
Forgetting, it would appear, is this winter’s black, it’s that fashionable. Just when you’d have thought that lessons had been learnt from and opportunities to tackle the problems that blight cycling presented, heads are heading right back into the sand after their brief excursions into bleached-out daylight.
We, they, can no longer say we don’t know just how institutionalized the doping problem in sport is/was (delete as you see fit), and yet still individuals and companies that should know better are pandering to former dopers and, in one hard to believe case, even trying to cripple the agency that may have brought an end to a once seemingly glittering career.
One such instance is that of disgraced American professional rider and career doper Levi Leipheimer, who still turns up to thrill the masses at the annual Grand Fondo that bears his name.
Several large companies still flock to sponsor the event even after the ‘admission’ by Leipheimer that he doped for large swathes of his fairly successful career.
Some people seem to have no problem with this, but I have several. The former state that this is a great event that brings out over 7,000 people to enjoy the joys of cycling, but if the sponsors insist his name be taken off and if he didn’t turn up, wouldn’t the event surely be better for it?
What message is this sending out to young riders? That you can dope, have a financially rewarding career, apologise when you get caught, then carry on as if nothing happened?
And what of these companies? Will there be no blow-back for them for supporting the race and, by extension, the man whose name is attached to it?
I find this, in all honesty, unfathomable.
Next up we have Nicolas Roche, the Irish pro rider who plies his trade with the Tinkoff-Saxo team. Now, I’m not suggesting that pro riders have an automatic responsibility to put their careers in jeopardy by criticizing their manager and back room staff, but when you manager is about to be hauled before the Danish courts for his admitted doping offences and for the allegations by Tyler Hamilton, Jörg Jaksche and most recently Michael Rasmussen, who say he helped them dope, then surely it’s better to keep your mouth firmly shut.
But no, Roche is on CyclingNews telling the venerable website that Riis is all that and then some.
“When Bjarne’s around, the team is just that extra bit focused and that brings some extra excitement to the race,” said the son of Stephen Roche. “He comes with ideas that change the profile of the race. He takes the extra bit of risk in races, when maybe some sports directors mightn’t be ready to take the risk, which is normal too.”
The mention of risk comes, apparently, without irony.
To make matters worse, Roche is now on a team owned by a certain Oleg Tinkov, a man who said last week that “doping is over, cycling has changed.” Did the team members collectively cringe when they heard that? Didn’t everyone?
Fear not archaeologists, it looks like the dinosaurs are not yet extinct, at least not in professional cycling.
This brings us nicely to the Schleck brothers. The two lads recently will be working with Kim Anderson as their DS through to the end of 2014, a former pro that they’ve been guided by for some years now.
The excellent dopeology website states that Andersen tested positive seven times in his career and was finally banned for life – from riding, that is, not from being a DS.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Frank at least values the knowledge and experience of Andersen – he was banned last year for doping himself, and was found to have transferred funds into the account of the doctor at the center of Operacion Puerto in 2006, Dr Fuentes.
Schleck was on the CSC team at the time, a team managed then by, you guessed it, Bjarne Riis.
Aren’t these little coincidences amazing?
Finally, we come to Jeannie Longo, the Frenchwoman with a palmares longer than Eddy Merckx’s who is currently trying to cripple the French anti-doping agency, AFLD.
Longo has had her brushes with suspensions but never actually received one. The nearest came in 2011 after she missed no less than three out-of-competition tests.
If you remember that loveable rogue, Michael Rasmussen, he got tossed from the Tour after just one missed test. Longo however got out of a lengthy ban via a loophole that everyone involved (except of course Longo herself) agreed was a proper cock-up.
No doubt about it – she dodged the tests and should have been banned.
Move on a little later and her husband gets busted after being named by dope-dealer Joe Papp as one of his customers. Seems that Longo’s husband was buying EPO from the American, dope that Papp said he was told was intended for Longo.
In early 2012 Ciprelli was charged with the importation of the banned substance EPO, on which he is said to have spent 15,000 euros on 15 purchases in 2007.
But do not fear, it was all apparently intended for him to help him recover from a cycling injury. That is some costly rehab.
No charges were brought against Longo, but she is seeking 1.1 million euro in damages from the AFLD, for her damaged reputation.
In a completely unrelated note, former pro rider Inga Thompson, a renowned anti-doping advocate, alleged in a November 2012 U.S. radio interview that Longo had used performance enhancing drugs during at least the latter part of her career.
Has Longo forgotten what the AFLD is supposed to do? And can she see no possible reason just why the AFLD and others might just maybe be a little suspicious when her husband is buying bucketloads of the very drug that makes cyclists go really fast?
Seems not. Seems like everyone’s just too busy forgetting.
not often i post links to other people’s articles here, but this one is really a great read.
by Richard Moore (author of Slaying The Badger), it features an interview with Shelley Verses, the first female soigneur on the European scene – and an American to boot!
cheers to former 7-11 pro Nathan Dahlberg for putting me onto this…
“When I think of my boys I want to cry,” she says. “Just the sheer thought of my boys’ faces on the start line; it was like walking through a hall of kings. The privilege; the honour to do what I did, in the years I did it.
“That I could even see Kelly, Fignon, Hinault, LeMond, Roche, Visentini, Breukink. All these fucking beautiful, these gifted people, and get to see that level of sport, to be involved at that level. It was a hall of kings to me.”
As an Englishman, I’ve become something of an expert in hope – and no, I’m not talking about cricket.
Every four years the football World Cup rolls around and every four years, once the utter despair and dejection of yet another woeful set of otherwise ‘plucky’ performances fades just ever so slightly, the players, manager and press start to say ridiculous things like:
‘Well obviously it will be hard, but yeah, I think we could win the World Cup next time around…’
There seems to be a collective amnesia, similar to those lapses in memory shown by people who’ve been through a traumatic experience. In this case though, it’s nationwide.
Now, I’m not about to compare Cadel Evans to the national English football team. First of all, Cadel’s a proven winner so on that level he’s far ahead of the English first XI.
Secondly, Cadel seems to understand what he is capable of, to know his limits, and that is not only admirable in a top level sportsman but rather unique.
He’s won at the highest level of his sport, and against men who were later proven to be substantially juiced up. Praised by Anne Gripper, the former head of the UCI anti-doping department, as the rider with the most level set of test results she’d ever come across – indicative of cleaner riding – he seems to have been doing it the right way too.
Alan Peiper, Aussie cycling legend now Performance Director at BMC Racing, might just have a case of ‘Ever So Hopeful’ where Cadel’s concerned.
Witness the interview he gave to CyclingNews just recently, in which he said that Cadel can win the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
He spoke of Cadel having ‘energy in the tank’ and said that “the way he rides a bike race, the way he can prepare and live for it, I think the Giro is definitely an obtainable goal for Cadel Evans in 2014.”
There is a precedent for this hope shown here by Peiper. In April of this year he was saying that Cadel had a chance to win the Tour de France.
However, his unusual race schedule in the build-up to the Tour – most modern riders aiming to win the Tour do not attempt to ride the Giro d’Italia also – saw him going into the third week exhausted.
Had he aimed for the Giro instead, and geared his season towards the Italian tour, might he have won it?
The answer to that is a no, in my opinion. He finished the Giro in third place, 5.52 down on Vincenzo Nibali, which was a great result in itself, but even had he specifically aimed for the race there is no way he’d be 6 minutes up on the Italian after three weeks.
Great as Evans was and indeed still can be on his day, this is a three week tour, not a one day race or a shorter, regional stage race.
If Nibali doesn’t race the Giro, something he still hasn’t definitively decided upon, and if none of the other top hitters attend, can Cadel win then?
His main challengers will most likely come from Sky, with Richie Porte lining up for them, and OPQS, where Uran now punks his crank. Evans finished just over a minute behind Uran this year, but it’s worth remembering that Uran was originally designated to ride for Bradley Wiggins, who eventually dropped out of the race.
Uran will be OPQS’s top GC guy at the race it looks like, and will have a full team supporting him all the way.
Porte is hungry, too. Very much so. Porte has received the nod from Sky for the Giro, and he is raring to go. A full strength Porte, with a powerful Sky team behind him – and the Sky boys, even their second string employees – are still a better and more cohesive unit than BMC’s top team.
“It’s the next step for me,” Porte said last month. “They want to develop me into a grand tour racer and that’s hopefully going to be my first big opportunity to lead a team.”
Then we also have Dan Martin of Garmin-Sharp, a rider who really found form early this year with a win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The Irishman is going for Pink too, and is entering his prime years.
“I’m going to win,” Martin has said. “I know I’m capable of it and that’s why I’m heading to Italy.”
Finally we have Joaqim Rodriguez of Katusha, who was third at this year’s Tour, surprising many who had felt he was more of a pure one day specialist than a three week GC candidate.
Can Cadel beat these guys? I have to say, again, no. He simply hasn’t got that same grinding ability in the mountains that allowed him in years gone by to cling on to the pure climbers.
And if Porte goes like he did at the Tour this year (apart from that very odd stinker of a day he had), and if Martin steps up and Rodriguez brings his Tour form, and, if Uran is going well, I think it’s 5th place at best for the Aussie legend.
*this article originally appeared on http://www.theroar.com.au
Amidst all the brouhaha that our favourite sport’s world class dopers-with-a-cycling-problem have brought us in recent times, has been another casualty, stacked in a body bag alongside Lance’s honesty, withered and dried up almost beyond recognition.
Except it wasn’t a man, nor a team that had fallen by the wayside, but a race.
A race indeed. One unlike any other on the calendar: none other than the hitherto veritable Tour of Flanders.
Yet what happened in 2012 and again in 2013 was – and I’m in no risk of over-exaggerating here – a travesty. A sin. It was, let us be clear, a blasphemy of the most riotous order.
When the pinch-faced Wouter Vandenhaute, head of the Flanders Classics race organisation, announced in 2011 that several of the legendary climbs that were the absolute essence of the Ronde de Vlaanderen were to be scrapped from the 2012 version, the cycling fans of Belgium – and that is more or less all of Belgium – and the rest of the world, threw their arms up in disgust.
Gone was the Mur van Geraardsbergen (known more affectionately as the ‘Kapelmur’ after the chapel situated on its summit), the most iconic of the Flanders’ climbs, situated 15km from the previous finish and the launch pad for many wins.
Gone too was the Bosberg climb, a half-cobbled climb that also had proven decisive in several editions.
Worst of all however was the fact the 2012 edition was to feature a diminishing final circuit of three rounds, taking the riders three times up Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg climbs, with a new finish in Oudenaarde, home to the Tour of Flanders museum.
The new route looked harder if anything, than the old route, but it was the finesse and subtleties of the old route that had been sacrificed.
The riders weren’t happy, though some were diplomatic, others less so. Heinrich Haussler fell into the latter category.
“Why did they have to change it?” he asked, probably not expecting an answer.
“The prestige of the race has changed. It’s just really hard. I don’t like it.
“Why do they have to change a race like Flanders? It’s like not having Roubaix finish in the velodrome – it’s just stupid.”
Even those riders the new finish suited were critical of the change, such as Stijin Devolder.
“Climbing the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg three times in the finale is probably in my favour,” Devolder told Het Laatste Nieuws in 2011 (though now he’s having trouble fighting his way out of a crisp packet).
“But I believe that the organisers made a wrong choice by simply replacing the old finish. The Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg can not be erased from the Ronde. Besides, the finish must remain in Meerbeke,” he added.
“I could win ten times in Oudenaarde, but it would never be the same feeling as finishing the job in Meerbeke [the previous, traditional finish].”
And the fans? Sheesh, did they lose it.
Some took to the Kapelmur in a mock funeral procession, bearing several coffins for good measure.
One group launched a Facebook page called, absolutely unwittily, ‘We hate Wouter Vandenhaute’. An online poll on the Het Niewsblad website showed the Belgian population was against the change by a 3-to-1 margin.
The message was clear – you do not mess with the best, and, along with Paris-Roubaix, Flanders is just that, one of the two best one day Classics in the world.
Why then, the change?
Yup, the moolah, the dirty greenbacks, the ka-ching ka-ching, whatever you want to call it – it was for money.
Good old miserly Wouter wanted more sponsor’s tents along the route, giving them more chances to knock back champers and stuff their prawn sarnies in as a race that most in the hospitality tents probably didn’t much care for anyway sped on by.
At the time though, race director Wim Van Herreweghe said this:
“Had we only wanted money, we would have left the course as it was. But we felt it was time for change. We wanted a new tour through the heart of the Flemish Ardennes.
“I can only ask for a chance,” Van Herreweghe added, while (probably) stuffing sponsors’ cheques into a briefcase.
“Make your opinion after the Tour, not before,” he said.
The thing is though, access to those VIP tents – which are more like cattle yards – started at US$200 a pop, and were on offer alongside other goodies, like up to $6000 for a place in a team car.
The other thing though, is this: you only mess with tradition when you can actually improve on it – and even then, you probably shouldn’t!
This was a race that featured in every riders’ wish list to ride.
Like Haussler, the peloton loved the Ronde not for each individual leg-breaker of a hill, but for the sum of those parts.
They loved it for what it meant, for what it stood for, for its brutal beauty, its feminine curves and its menacing allure.
In any case, Van Herreweghe got his chance. The Tour was run on the route and the riders hated it. The fans too. And the press.
The organisers struggled on gamely for another year but for next year, wearied by the ongoing barrage of criticism, they’ve had to make something of a climb down.
For the 2014 version, the finishing circuits have gone, as have many of the long, flat sections of the last two editions, and the Koppenberg climb, a fearsome beast, comes now just 45km from the line.
Still though, there is no place for Kapelmur nor the Bosberg, which is a shame, and the finish will again be in Oudenaarde.
The riders though seem enthused, among them one rider who has won on both the old and new routes, Fabian Cancellara.
“This is a beautiful, attractive course. It’s a parcours that’s more in line with tradition,” Cancellara told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.
“The fans will be satisfied with it. It will provide a good race.”
Belgian great (and, has to be said, doper) Johann Museeuw is also pleased.
“Riders were very hesitant on the current finale, they tended to wait and it led to a boring race,” Museeuw said.
“Now it will be completely different. Riders get the chance to blow things open from the Koppenberg on.”
The hardcore fans will no doubt still be unappeased, and in a way they are right to feel that way. But, at least we are getting back somewhat to the original spirit of this mighty Old Dame of a race.
I, for one though, am a traditionalist at heart and will still shed a tear for Old Flanders come April…
The new route, hills and cobbles
(Race total is 259km)
1. Oude Kwaremont (cobbled) 109km
2. Kortekeer (asphalt) 119km
3. Eikenberg (cobbled) 127km
4. Wolvenberg (asphalt) 130km
5. Molenberg (cobbled)142km
6. Leberg (asphalt) 163km
7. Valkenberg (asphalt) 171km
8. Kaperij (asphalt) 181km
9. Kanarieberg (asphalt) 189km
10. Oude Kwaremont (cobbled) 205km
11. Paterberg (cobbled) 208km
12. Koppenberg (cobbled) 215km
13. Steenbeekdries (cobbled) 220km
14. Taaienberg (cobbled) 222km
15. Kruisberg (Oudestraat) (cobbled) 233km
16. Oude Kwaremont (cobbled) 243km
17. Paterberg (cobbled) 246km
1. Ruiterstraat 130km
2. Kerkgate 133km
3. Holloweg 136km
4. Paddestraat 147km
5. Haaghoek 160km
6. Mariaborrestraat 219km
this article originally appeared on The Roar
from Urban Velo. you gotta love it.
why is this guy getting any space, anywhere, at any time? did i miss something? as far as i can see it, LA has been making these fumbling, half-assed attempts at clawing back some public sympathy and some of his beaten, battered, smashed-to-a-bloody-oozy-pulp reputation for several months now – and we all knew better right?
we all knew better than to give him that breathing space, to provide him with a platform to pump out his kinky stuff. we all knew better because he wasn’t going to tell all, he wasn’t going to apologise to Betsy, nor anyone else he screwed, despite the constant exhortations of ’100% honesty.’
we all know what a media manipulator he is, and yet he still remains one of the biggest draws in the sport – for some deluded journos – who are willing to allow him to get his rehab up and rolling.
they’re not all so dim though. speaking to a well-respected editor of one of cycling’s leading websites recently, he told me that he’d been offered a chat with Mr. Hospitality some weeks back, but that he had turned it down. the reason? he didn’t want the LA flame to get any oxygen, knowing that any chance of full disclosure and access all areas was zero.
and yet there we have CyclingNews giving LA a nice, chunky three-part interview last week. i’m not at all criticising the quality of the interview but it is the simple fact that LA said ZERO NADA ZILCH new. and of course he didn’t. this is all part of a lengthy rehab process, one that an public relations firm will know all too well.
it’s called ‘the process’, and involves, interviews like this, placed in carefully-selected spaces (interestingly, the un-named editor of the well known website was not a very welcome member in LA’s camp before, which may well be the reason he was approached), some public appearances, apologies and the like.
if you read the CN interview you may have noticed that LA says one of his biggest regrets was that he denied doping so forcefully. ok, hang on, so, had it been less ‘forceful’ (this is the guy who destroyed careers, remember), it would have been ok? does he really even feel sorry?
no, i don’t think so – just sorry he got caught. he’s now bemoaning the huge dent his fortune has taken, calling it ‘frustrating’. we know the feeling Lance, if it’s anything like seeing the sport you love being take over by King Bandit and his Bandoleros…
thankfully, others have said that they want his skin and all he knows in a bag, and hois desire to get his lifetime ban overturned will need a ‘miracle’, says WADA prez John Fahey.
the CN space given to LA wasn’t in any way ill-intentioned – it was just kinda dumb and very naive.
Ah, Mark Cavendish. The most divisive rider in the pro peloton has a new book out.
He seems to have decided that the best way to publicise it is to spend several pages trying to roll back the years on behalf of everyone’s favourite sociopathic doper, Lance Armstrong, coming out with a stream of claptrap that leaves the reader in no doubt that he’s definitely had one crash too many.
Now before we get to an investigation into the warped thinking expressed by Cavendish in print, I’ll ask that you watch this short extract from a very interesting film released earlier this year about the OmegaPharma-Quick Step team (warning: there is some strong language used in the video).
When I first watched this I was a little taken aback by the force and severity of Cavendish’s reaction, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt, figuring he must have been on a bad day and had perhaps been asked a similar question several times.
However, the extracts from his new book wash away those benefits, and leave the reader in no doubt that Cavendish not only wants to forget the past, he also believes that the man about whom he says has an incredible charisma didn’t really do much different than anyone else in that era.
“Like everyone else, I was well aware of the doping rumours that had swirled around Lance,” writes the Isle of Man native, “but never dwelled on them: firstly because I hadn’t been competing against him between 1999 and 2005; and, secondly, I had gathered from riders who had competed in that era that doping had been widespread if not endemic.”
‘Never dwelled on them’? Just because you’d never competed against him before?
But you would be just a year after the time that you speak of meeting him, in 2009 during his comeback.
That doesn’t seem to be worthy of a mention thought in Cav’s mind, despite the fact that USADA reckon there was a one in a million chance that Armstrong rode the 2009 Tour de France clean.
And then there’s the statement about how in that era, “doping had been widespread if not endemic.”
Ah, that old chestnut.
Way beyond its sell-by date is that particular nut.
LA, as we all know, not only doped his arse off, he also brought others into doping through various means and went after any of those riders –and indeed anyone at all – who later claimed he had doped with the single-mindedness of an assassin.
He wrecked careers, almost ruined a marriage, preyed on the desperation, hope and need to believe of cancer sufferers, but hey it’s ok, because Cavendish has chosen to “simply concentrate on the present.”
But the present, you see, is a product of the past. See how that works? You get here ‘cos you came from there. In life we learn that to solve problems almost invariably means we must work out the cause.
Not in Cavendish’s mind though. “To me,” he says, “it’s gone far beyond the point where the soul-searching has become useful to the sport.”
Soul-searching? Is that what this is?
I thought that what the majority of fans – people who are fed up with being cheated and taken for fools long enough – were after was a thorough investigation into just how we ended up in this state.
I thought they wanted to know role the major players had exactly, and then to work out, once that knowledge has been acquired, how the flip to sort this out so that the next generation of riders can escape the turmoil that so many have been led into by the very people they should have been able to trust with their health, safety and welfare.
But no. Apparently it’s soul-searching.
How dismissive that term is, describing something the sport truly needs in such a way that it seems lame, pointless, and almost teenage in its scope.
Yet what it really does is to reveal Cavendish for the apologist that he has become.
Cavendish though is not quite clever enough to thread together a credible argument on this one for two reasons.
First, there is no credible argument to be found here.
Secondly, he and his ghost writer, if he used one, just are not clever enough and they eventually expose the slackness in Cav’s logic.
“Now we’re asked to comment on Armstrong and have our morals judged on the strength of what we say, when a lot of us are, rightly or wrongly, too preoccupied with the here and now to have an opinion. Even though I was watching those Tours that Lance won, wide-eyed and innocent, I also can’t pretend that I’m eaten up with resentment or feel betrayed now [that] I know it was a big charade,” he writes.
But you say we should focus on the now, Cav. Then say that people who do that are “too preoccupied… to have an opinion.”
And yet here you are dishing one out, a feeble, apologetic one that attempts to reclaim some of the shine of the now impossibly-tarnished reputation of LA.
Apparently the thrills Armstrong dished out then under the guise – delivered whenever possible with a mighty bellow – of riding clean are still of greater worth than the revelations of the rampant and institutionalised doping that LA was a leader of.
Before trotting out the old argument that cycling has done more to bust drug cheats than any other sport and that tennis, football and others need to look at themselves in the mirror, he reveals that no matter how much Lance doped, the lasting memory for Cav will be of glory, not, as it should be, of fraud and deceit.
“As unjust, as distressing as it may be, as hard as it is for us to accept, I’m sure that Lance still feels that no one and nothing can take away the emotions of those seven Tours at the time, and the same really goes for those of us who were watching.”
This from the same man who said of the disgraced Italian rider Ricardo Ricco, this:
“The sport’s better off without him,” Cavendish said at the time. “He’s not a problem that the sport faces, he is the problem that the sport faces.”
Uh, like Armstrong was you mean?
“He doesn’t mirror a lot of riders, he’s a special case and I think we’re better off without him,” Cavendish continued.
“Obviously I hope he does recover well [from an adverse reaction to a blood transfusion], but I really do hope he becomes someone’s bitch in prison.”
Lovely stuff. But where’s the consistency? Do we forgive LA because he in fact DID reflect a lot of riders at that time?
Sorry, Mr. Cavendish, but these excerpts are nothing but evidence of very sloppy logic, and you’re wrong on all counts. Just plain wrong.
very interesting article here from Popular Science on the effects of cycling through polluted areas. seems that low-intensity riding triggers greater effects on the body than high-intensity cycling. in fact, high-intensity riding, the study found, has little to no effect on the body despite the rider breathing in pollution.
very much worth a read – thanks Steve for sending this in! check it out here.
Let me set my stall out from the start: I don’t believe former dopers have any place in the management or training of current professionals.
Be it Eric Zabel, Bjarne Riis, Matt White or any other former pro that has either admitted to doping or been outed post-career, their presence within the firmament of the top tiers of the sport is, I believe, sending the wrong message to the current crop of professionals and, even more damaging, to the ranks of amateurs aspiring to turn professional.
And then we have Jonathan Vaughters, the former professional rider-turned-impressario who ran the Slipstream team that in 2009 entered the ProTour ranks, founded on a platform that advocated a drug-free approach to cycling at the highest level.
Vaughters’ men stood out in an era that many felt – correctly, it emerged – was riven by illegal substance abuse.
They were lauded for their honest and ethical approach to the sport, and drew in sponsors and fans alike on the back of their pledge to ride clean.
And yet not was all as it seemed. Not even close. In August 2012 Vaughters admitted to doping in a New York Times article, though only after rumors were circulating through the cycling world that he was to be outed for the very act he so bravely admitted to.
“I chose to lie over killing my dream,” he wrote in The Times article. “I chose to dope. I am sorry for that decision, and I deeply regret it.”
He then went on to claim that, well, everyone else was at it, so what was there to do? You were either on the bus, it seemed, or not.
Interestingly, Vaughters’ advice to those who have doped is the first thing they must do it to apologise to the fans, exactly as he did – years after the fact, when that apology means absolutely zero to anyone.
Here is a former doper who funded and set up a team based on a clean riding policy that was stacked with – you guessed it – former dopers.
David Millar was the most famous, having returned from a ban to become the media’s go-to-guy on all matters doping.
But it later emerged, thanks to the Lance Armstrong case, that there were other dopers in the Vaughters’ stable, men who many assumed were clean as whistles.
Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie and Tom Danielson were all exposed as dopers too.
Add to that the reinstatement at the highest level of another doper, Thomas Dekker, and you may see a pattern emerging.
Vaughters started this team not by admitting his doping past nor by stating that any of his riders had doped, but by parading them as a clean team, full of clean riders trying to change the sport.
Would he have secured the sponsorship needed to fund a top pro team had he admitted even his own past?
Think about that for a moment, all those of you who will say that at least he was trying to change things: Vaughters would not even have come close to having his own team had he admitted his past. Not even close.
That is the problem I have with Jonathan Vaughters.
The whole thing has been a fraud and a sham from the get go. What nobility can come from that beginning? What morality?
And now, as if this was just what the sport needed, we have the revelations by Danish rider Michael Rasmussen, infamous for leaving of the 2007 Tour de France while wearing Yellow after it was revealed he lied about his whereabouts for a doping test, about Ryder Hesjedal.
Rasmussen claims in his new book he taught 2012 Giro d’Italia winner Hesjedal – whose win by many, me included, was lauded as a victory for clean riding – how to inject EPO.
Rasmussen had three Canadian mountain bikers staying at his house in 2003 – Seamus McGrath, Chris Sheppard and Ryder Hesjedal.
He writes in his book the three “had seen the light: A good result in the World Cup (2003) would send them to the Olympics in Athens in 2004.
“They moved into my basement in August,” writes Rasmussen, “before I went to the Vuelta a España, and after I had ridden the Championship of Zurich.
“They stayed for a fortnight. I trained with them in the Dolomites and taught them how to do vitamin injections and how to take EPO and Synacthen.”
Hesjedal’s response? You guessed it, an apology.
“I have loved and lived this sport but more than a decade ago, I chose the wrong path,” said Hesjedal, echoing Zabriskie’s and Vaughter’s statements in an eerie fashion.
“Even though those mistakes happened more than 10 years ago, and they were short-lived, it does not change the fact that I made them and I have lived with that and been sorry for it ever since.”
Phew, that’s a relief! He’s sorry about it.
Vaughters’ attitude to ex-dopers is a clear one – that they should be forgiven and allowed back into the sport in the hope that they have learnt from their mistakes and thus can improve the sport.
That’s a very convenient outlook to have, because it corresponds precisely to his own situation.
If he had never doped, do you think he’d have the same view? No, I doubt it.
Others who were pros and never doped tend to want the ex-dopers out, forever.
Vaughters is a product of his environment and he is twisting this way and that to justify his own existence and his place in the sport – and packing his team with ‘ex’-dopers in the meantime.
Is Hesjedal the tipping point for JV? Just how many guys on your roster can be exposed long after the fact to be dopers before you get red carded? Three? Four? Five?
Yet another sad indictment on the prevailing attitudes within the sport.
If Brian Cookson wants to do something truly positive, he should turf Jonathan Vaughters out of the sport, once and for all.
this article originally appeared in The Roar
thanks to my friend Damian Barrett for putting me onto the latest Velocast podcast, episode 35, in which i get a mention from Cillian Kelly in regards to crankpunk and the doping problem in Asia.
check the link below, Cillian goes all punky at about 27 minutes…