crankpunk’s always believed in giving a fella the benefit of the doubt, always felt that ‘innocent til proven guilty’ was a pretty decent rule of thumb and that every man or woman suspected of something should have the opportunity to answer their accusers. that’s been, after all, the stated basis of most of our legal systems since the modern age began (however corrupted the system may, in some cases, actually be). i also believe wholeheartedly the concept of redemption. if convicted of a crime, a man who’s served his time should be given a second chance.
the reality of this isn’t always palatable however. with manslaughter convictions for example, the punishment often seems inadequate in relation to the fact that someone lost their lives. it’s similar with doping (i am not though comparing doping to manslaughter, if i need to make that clear). Ricardo Ricco was a great example of that. he doped so flagrantly, apologized for nothing, came back after a measly 2 years and started immediately putting in suspect rides, and sure enough was found to have been on the juice once again. Valverde’s case, i am sure most of us would agree, brought up similar feelings. the punishment did not match the crime. it’s not just these two imminently unlikeable riders that get my blood boiling. the ‘now i see the light but i only did it for a month anyway’ squad equally rile me.
one rider who brings up a mix of emotions in many is David Millar. you can be as sure as you can that he wouldn’t have been admitting to doping had he not got caught. since his ban he’s returned to the top tier and has taken a role as sort of the elder statesman in the peloton when it comes to doping. listening to him speak about the UCI and doping in the sport, i don’t feel respect for him, it’s much more a disquieting sense of anger. much of what he has to say may be correct but there’s a very simple fact he is missing – he shouldn’t be there. his ban was, despite being in line with the UCI regulations, inadequate. he profited from doping in his career, and now he’s resurrected that career by standing on an anti-doping soapbox, riding with a team that espouses an anti-doping stance, but that in reality is full of ex-dopers and run by an ex-doper. (he even managed to get back into the Olympics, a la Vino, which also should not be allowed in my opinion – an opinion shared by Wiggins).
how does that make any sense? how are these guys amongst our guiding lights? how is it that the press, like so many sheep, trot off to Millar and Vaughters every time there is a positive in the peloton? how have these two become pillars of the ‘clean’ peloton?
it says a great deal about the state of this sport that this is the case. as an indicator of the health of cycling, if you consider that over the the past three or four years we’ve not had anyone other than Millar and Vaughters within the peloton to look to for any sort of anti-doping leadership, well, it tells you in a second that this is a sick sport.
Vaughters admitted to doping in what Cycling News called ‘an honest and up-front‘ piece in the New York Times (why is a doping admission that came years after the fact praised for being ‘honest’?) in which he said that he doped because of the pressure to get that ‘last 2%’ was too great’. clever that – by saying that it was just for the ‘2%’. he’s implying he was not one of those donkeys who turned himself into a thoroughbred and stole a good, clean rider’s job, but that he was actually very good all along. he just needed that little booster, bless him. i’m not about to judge another rider over his results, and for many a year Vaughters was a domestique in any case, but one can see from his palmares that it wasn’t a stellar career.
though Vaughters said he doped to get just the last 2%, here on Twitter things sound a little different… ‘My team from 2003 was Credit Agricole. Management was absolutely anti-doping. I hated letting them down when I couldn’t win.’
but he admitted he doped right? so that’s good, right? well, not really. he had little choice. the date on that admission was August 2012, and made in light of the fact that he knew the Armstrong thing was about to go nuclear. another way to look at is this – Vaughters last rode professionally in 2003. 9 years to realise what he’d done deserved an admission to the cycling fans? he stood by as even Bjarne Riis admitted doping, along wth Laurent Fignon, Steven Rooks and a handful of others. he ‘came clean’ because he had to, otherwise we’d never have heard a peep from him. he stayed silent, the whole way, til circumstances forced his hand – yet he had the gall to write this in Cycling News back in February of 2011:
I’ve always been infuriated, saddened and hurt watching my friends, peers and myself get accused of everything short of murder on all that new media has to offer. Not by the journalists that have researched the story, no, rather the massacre occurs in the comments and forums that follow the story. The chattering, anonymous fans hurling comments and critiques are so hurtful. I can’t imagine saying such things to anyone, not even my worst enemy.
I try to argue my point, but of course any argument is vulnerable to misinterpretation and can easily be shot down by the hardened critic. And to be honest, who isn’t a hardened critic with cycling these days? It’s not a winnable battle. If you withhold information, you’re hiding something, if you make information public; it’s picked through and placed out of context unfairly by people who aren’t experts on the topic. At times I think it’s not only an unwinnable battle, but an unwinnable war. Twitter becomes my Waterloo.
“Unfair” “unjust” “unfounded” all seem to be at the tip of my thoughts every day. And “poor me” slowly leaks its way into my being. I was being picked on by gossip bullies! These evil purveyors of internet untruths are clearly not sentient beings, but indeed sub human, downright demonic rumor spreaders. I, instead, see myself separate as a knight armed with ethical objectivity and logical thought, who was being tarnished by such misguided vigilantism. Clearly.
he went on to say that the news that Spanish rider Xavier Tondo had passed information onto police that brought an end to a doping ring had changed his perspective. he also says that he avoided Tondo before that because he felt the Spaniard was a doper, writing that ‘I knew he was just a donkey made to ride fast with extra blood. I never gave him a chance. I never gave him a second thought.’ (no ‘just 2%’ then for Tondo – clearly not as ‘good’ as JV…). the implication here being this: ‘i was clean, my riders are clean, i didn’t want to be associated with dopers’. this from the guy with a team full of them, unconvicted (besides Millar, our Shining Knight) but known to be dopers by Vaughters, and from the man who later signed Dekker, a rider who refused to talk about his doping past once he returned to the sport, and whom Vaughters himself described as ‘a prick.‘
i find this blatant display of double standards, and the very public ‘apology’ to Tondo in which Vaughters goes to some lengths to portray himself as the defender of the ‘clean’ peloton, all rather distasteful and hard to stomach. i very much applaud the Charter of the Willing that the Change For Cycling group produced, but something about it grates with me – and it’s the inclusion of Vaughters on the committee. i’m not the only one disappointed to see him there.
former president of the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP), Eric Boyer, had this to say about Vaughters, the man who took over the role as president of the IAPC:
“The code stipulated that ProTour teams were not allowed to recruit a suspended rider for a further two years, so that was two years plus two years off the circuit. Liquigas were the first to flaunt it by recruiting Basso.
After succeeding me, Vaughters decided that it was unenforceable, so he didn’t apply it. So when he makes his fine speech that ‘cycling needs to change’… Well, he had the chance to do things and he didn’t do them.
Seeing him there as if he were among those who want to change things doesn’t make a very good impression. They pushed me to resign because I wanted to do things.”
seems, a little depressingly, that some pressure was put on Boyer after that statement, as later he stated that the ‘differences’ between the two men had been put to rest. it’s a shame Boyer didn’t stand his ground, as he, knowing Vaughter’s history well, had every right to question his inclusion on the board. cycling fans deserve an explanation also. it’s a large negative for the CCN and this is a step in the wrong direction. it’s time for cycling to let go of that past, and if necessary, to forcibly throw it out.
Vaughters may love the sport and have a lot of money invested in it, but he simply shouldn’t be on this panel…