Hesjedal doping revelation – the tipping point for JV?

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

Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

12 thoughts

  1. Also…although easy to drag up the past, something easily overlooked about the past, when it comes to doping are the glitches in the timeline, we’ve been here before, right here, where doping has been uncovered, admissions/firings/etc. 1999 was the year and LA was on deck to be the new saviour..JV and most other admitted dopers want to say they came up in the EPO era!? which leads to the big justification “everybody else was on dope” but really JV et. al. came in after that, he came up in the time right after the true EPO era, after Festina, Pantani, Willi Voets, etc. People want to forget the ’99 tour was supposed to be one of redemption from doping, LA definitely took that sentiment and parlayed it into his own personal success, and a sucess the sport benefitted from as well. But during that time LA, JV and the rest were doping, right after the massive doping scandals of those few previous years. Right in the face of that “redemption” period cycling thought it was in (kinda like where cycling thinks it is now) they and JV were on dope. How does this guy have any credibilty at all? a bowtie and a good con is all it takes?

  2. You certainly are entitled to your view – hey, it’s YOUR blog, but I disagree with your take. Vaughters explains it well here
    What SHOULD he have done? It would seem that his team provided a place for these guys who now wanted to race cleanly, no? He could have just walked away from the sport in disgust…but who would have benefited from that? Yes, that’s right – the teams who either turned a blind-eye to or worse, encouraged doping.
    Vaughters as director of his pro team did neither (at least as far as we know now – if you have evidence that his team has riders on it still doping or that he condones/encourages doping, let’s see it) instead creating a team dedicated to competing cleanly while insisting the riders on it cooperate with all anti-doping efforts and investigations. You have the right to be underwhelmed, but I have to put JV in a far different category than fellows like Mr. 60% who seem to not only have cheated during their racing careers but (unlike JV) seem to have aided and abetted cheaters who raced for them.
    Again, if you have evidence that proves otherwise…….let’s have it.

    1. it’ a pretty simple choice in my mind. admit to doping and talk, break the omerta, or get out. coming along and saying ‘hey we’re clean’ when you know you and your riders doped does what? it leaves the possibility that has just become a reality for Ryder. and the sport is again thrown into turmoil, and there is a real chance that he will be stripped of his Giro win. that JV is considered to be a guy trying to really truly change things is indicative of just how screwed out sport is. he, nor Riis, nor any other doper should be involved in the management of riders. how about ofering jobs to those riders who left cos of doping? haha imagine that! and yet that is EXACTLY What we should be doing… forget ‘hey he was doing his best’ – his best is way under what we need to be holding up as ‘the best we can do’. those quotes in the article you posted, about being ethical? to be honest, i almost gagged. seriously. i race clean, i always have, there are hundreds of thousands like us, we would never cheat, we would get out of a situation if we were asked to or forced to, we would not buckle, we would and have given up on our greatest dreams, and yet we are supposed to take this ‘well geez the pressure was too much’ bullshit? the ‘well everyone was doing it…’ – those that cracked frauded us, frauded the sport they claim to love, and their actions then are still screwing the sport now. why am i constantly amazed that people don;t get this? and Larry you ask me to provide evidence? back to the beginning again eh? like the good old LA days…

      1. Taking a risk of a running battle here, BUT…did you read JV’s statement? Didn’t Hesjedal do what you ask in your first sentence, the part about admitting and talking, breaking the omerta?
        Let’s assume because you provide no evidence that contradicts it, that JV’s been running a clean team. Guy’s who cheated in the past, but wanted to ride for a clean team, one where there was no pressure to dope for the rest of their career would do WHAT if JV didn’t offer them the chance? Sounds like you would simply have them quit the sport and leave omerta alive and well? What do you think would happen if everyone involved in doping in any way, shape or form was suddenly removed from the sport? I would venture to say there wouldn’t be much left, but IF those few left were willing, the sport might be rebuilt in a clean way. But that’s a BIG IF. I’m willing to let guys like JV and his band of ex-dopers compete cleanly (and hope like hell they really are) as they just might show that doping is no longer needed. That to me would be a good thing and far more constructive than rants demanding the authorities “throw the bums out”. If you truly believe that’s the answer I’ll assume you’ll be boycotting pro cycling until it happens?
        PS- I think there is ZERO chance of Hesjedal losing his Giro title.

    2. @ LarryT;
      Why is JV being given the option of “leaving in disgust”. Cycling should have thrown him out on his ass in disgust! Let me ask you, would JV hold his current position in cycling if he hadn’t doped his way through a fraudulent career? Absolutely not. He would have been sent home to the US and never been a factor in the Euro race scene, because his natural talent wasn’t enough to keep him there. No euro race career = no lofty position post career. That’s how it should have worked out.

      JV cheated every clean rider he raced against, no different than the big bag Armstrong and he continues to steal from clean riders by holding a position in cycling that he did not earn.

  3. Vaughters doped, like a crime of oppotunity, it’s easy to see him as an opportunist, he saw another opportunity when “riding clean” became marketable. Doesn’t seem too crazy to distance him from the common perception that he’s doing something noble for cycling by saying he’s a con. He can easily be painted as a con who saw his chance to stay in cycling by exploiting the clean – ethic, Pandora’s box just can’t be shut, but should the “purge” be the next step, it’s already happening (the purge of ex-dopers) but how do we reconcile this new clean future with the old doped up past? (This is what’s going on here with JV – trying to forget his past) should cycling get rid of everyone and their results? ‘cuz thats where this logic leads. Who’s left standing? LeMond? And how is it that all of cycling has been touched by doping but not LeMond or Hinault? 2 saints – really?

    1. I’ll agree it’s all a huge con IF (and only if) JV’s team was created to cheat while claiming to be clean. But other than a strong odor whiffing around this blog and some others, there’s nothing I know of to suggest this. Further, JV himself was never caught or sanctioned, so the idea he’s created an elaborate con to stay in the sport doesn’t make much sense to me, as he wasn’t exactly thrown out of it in the first place.

      This may sound odd, but I wonder if some who were beaten by any of these confessed dopers have now convinced themselves that EVERYONE who beat them must have been doped? How convenient…the same logic (everyone is doped but me) used to justify doping can also be used to rationalize when someone might just not have been good enough to win?

      1. JV doped for his ENTIRE euro career. He is only where he is today because of this. How does this escape people? He is a thief, a serial liar and a con man who systematically cheated the very sport he now continues to profit from, at the expense of whatever number of clean riders existed while he raced. His fancy glasses and bow ties don’t remove the stain of deceit he is trying to hide.

  4. I’m pretty much up to here with Vaughters being presented as the ‘saviour of cycling’, and the man to lead it away from doping (yes, he really does get presented in those terms which suits him down to the ground as that’s how he thinks of himself).

    But this Ryder thing is the last straw. Hesjedal was presented as a shining example of a clean rider – NOT a former doper who could win a GT clean.

    The uncomfortable truth was kept hidden away. Vaughters admitted last Friday that he’s known about Hesjedal’s doping past from before he signed him. Yet fans apparently don’t have a right to know that until – and only until – Hesjedal, Vaughters and Garmin were backed into a corner last week by Rassmussen. Fans. You know, the people who buy the team replica kit, who splash out the cash to make the trips – sometimes thousands of miles – to cheer on the team at races. The ones who hold up Garmin as a shining example of a team doing things the right way. But THEY dont have the right? And JV might as well save his breath trying to hide Hesjedal behind the ongoing investigation business. That’s just puff that Garmin have come up with in a blind panic in the last few days.

    Oh yeah, Hesjedal. Where is he right now? Surfing near his pad in Hawaii, at a team camp? One thing’s for sure – he ain’t peeping out from behind Vaughters. MTFU.

    And you’re right, Lee, about packing the team with ex-dopers, taking the place of clean young riders. Take George Bennett for example – verbal promise from Garmin who then went back on their word.

    But remind me…just what is their word really worth now?

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