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Jonathan Vaughters Interview: Part 2: Ethics, Roger Legeay, The List, PEDs

Posted by bikezilla on June 8, 2011


Part 1, Part 2, Postscript

This is Part 2 of my interview with Jonathan Vaughters.

From May 26, 2011.

Jonathan Vaughters:

“Like I said before, did French teams take steps to eliminate doping from their internal culture long before it was de rigeur? Yes, absolutely they did, without a doubt. I was on one in 2000 – 2001, Crédit Agricole.

“It was straight as an arrow.

“To my way of thinking Roger Legeay took a very strict line very early on, and was not overly concerned with whether that affected the performance of the team or not.

“Hat’s off to him. I have a huge, huge level of respect for him for doing that. It influenced my life considerably.”

Bikezilla:

Could you have gotten where you are without him? Would you have?

JV:

“No. No, absolutely not.

“Roger had a very big influence on me in a lot of different ways. Obviously the wasp sting thing.

“You know, there’s all kinds of different stories, but the real story about it is: I got the wasp sting and needed a cortisone injection. I knew the cortisone injection was illegal. But, if you had a knee injury, then it was legal.

“So all we had to do was produce a prescription for a knee injury and I could have continued the Tour de France, right?

“Me? What did I do? I said goddammit, write in my little book that I have a knee injury and give me the injection. I argued with him for hours, and the team doctor.

“Roger was the one who put his foot down and said, ‘No, you’re not going to do that.’

“And I hated him for months after that.

“But today I see that he made the right choice.

“A lot of people think I said ‘no’ to the cortisone. No, no, no, no. I wanted the cortisone. I absolutely wanted the cortisone.

“It was Roger Legeay who prevented me from making a wrong decision.”

Bz:

Legeay put ethics ahead of performance.

JV:

“Yes. Absolutely.”

Bz:

Just yesterday (25 May 11) you re-posted the link to a year old article about your stance on Garmin riders talking about doping.

In it you say:

” (the team is) on the belief in our ability to contribute to changing the sport’s future through a persistent commitment to the present.”

“. . . we find ourselves at a critical moment in cycling’s evolution: confronting its past.”

“. . .  we believe it is time for transparency.”

“We expect anyone in our organization who is contacted by any cycling, anti-doping, or government authority will be open and honest with that authority. In that context, we expect nothing short of 100% truthfulness – whatever that truth is – to the questions they are asked. As long as they express the truth about the past to the appropriate parties, they will continue to have a place in our organization and we will support them for living up to the promise we gave the world when we founded Slipstream Sports.”

On Twitter the same day you said:

“. . .  .read the statement carefully. I’m not throwing anyone out for being honest about their past with authorities.”

And then: 

” . . . Oh, just folks getting grumpy about me not being candid about my past with media outlets. Don’t consider them ‘authorities’ sorry.’

Commitment to the present; confronting the past; time for transparency.

Those terms seem to be in conflict.

Your commitment to the present is the team’s anti-doping program, but also your personal efforts to achieve reform in the process to make it more effective, more difficult to beat and less corrupt.

JV:

“Yes, absolutely, all those things. You have to deal with the here and now.”

Bz:

But “confronting the past” seems to be an exercise in ignoring the past where doping is concerned: Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.  Like if we just ignore all of that and do the right thing ourselves as we move forward, all will be right with the world.

JV:

“No, no, no. If you ignore it, then you have no capacity to change the future.

“What you say is of very little consequence. It’s how you act, how you choose to go forward based on the information in your past.

“Does my past give me an incredible body of information to be able to change the future and the present? Absolutely it does.

“But knowing it is accepting it, living with it, alright, based on what I know and based on my experiences, this is the way forward.”

Bz:

This ties into your statement about transparency.

You make it very clear that it’s ok for team members to talk, “to authorities” and that it’s not only ok, but expected for them to respond in total honesty should “authority” ask.

But only if they’re asked.

Those statements seem to imply that riders and team members should not take initiative to offer information on their own, not even to “authority”.

JV:

“Nooooo, I don’t have a problem if they take the initiative on their own. I don’t have any issue with that whatsoever.

“Remember, that (the re-posted link / story – Bikezilla) was written over a year ago. At that point in time it was clear that the FDA was going to be investigating this issue.

“So, my point was, if any of my guys are contacted, here’s my expectation.

“I think the more important part of that is that the expectation is, you will be honest: You are compelled by your employer to complete honesty.

“And, by the way, I’m also an employee of Slipstream Sports. So I fall under all that.

“You will be completely forthcoming and honest, and no matter what that truth is, as long as you are truthful, you have a place with us.

“I think that’s very clear.”

Bz:

So you don’t have a problem with employees going to authorities on their own. They don’t have to wait for someone to ask them, if they choose to they can just go to Jeff Novitzky or whoever?

JV:

“Yeah, absolutely. No, I have no problem with that at all.”

Bz:

It also seems that you’re implying, quite strongly, that riders and team members are not to, and not permitted to (or at least very strongly discouraged from), speak to any non-“authority”, and that you may very well “throw anyone out” who does speak to a non-“authority”.

JV:

“I would never throw anyone out for that. It’s just that I’m not going to compel them to speak to the media.

“It’s my personal belief that that is not the best way forward.

“If there’s an investigation going on, then you should let those investigators do their work the best that they can. If you are asked to be part of it, you need to be honest.

“If you’re not asked to be part of it maybe they don’t need you. But if you want to go forward, then however you want to play that.

“But I don’t necessarily feel that it’s productive to coming to the best possible conclusion of an investigation if you’re putting things out publicly.

“I feel like there are people that, this is their job, and those people need to have the truth. Period.”

Bz:

So they’re not forbidden from speaking to the media and there are no punitive measures taken if they do?

JV:

“Absolutely not.”

Bz:

When UCI’s “Index of Suspicion” for the 2010 Tour de France was leaked, it rated Tyler Farrar a 3 and David Millar a 4 on a scale of 0 – 10 (with 10 being worst – Bikezilla). 

When fans saw that, there was a lot of “I knew it!” about Millar and “Holy jeebus please no” about Tyler.

JV:

“Millar is a 4 because of his history. He has very stable blood values. Period.

“Tyler . . . I mean, who knows. Why he was a 3 rather than a 2 or a zero or whatever, I don’t know. But what I do know is that, anyone who has worked for a long time in reading hematology knows that there are little variances, and those little variances come and go.

“For instance, there may be a zero in that race, but if you measured him in a race three weeks later he might be a three.

“The point is, there’s no problem having a list like that, but if you dealt with a lot of hematology and read these blood records over the years, you’d realize that there is no rider in the entire peloton that has never produced a test that isn’t a little bit weird.

“There are enough issues with just the human body and transportation of blood samples, laboratories, so on and so forth, that that’s just the way it works.

“But whenever you see an odd blood value . . . there should be a targeting system like this. It just shouldn’t be leaked publicly.

“When you see an odd blood value, you say, we need to follow up on this and test the shit out of this guy. And you do it and either you immediately see, ok that was anomalous, no big deal. Or, there’s a problem.

“So, there should be a prioritization of the athletes, there. But it shouldn’t be leaked to the public, because, I can guarantee you, that if you did that same test and that same compilation a month or two months later with the same group of riders, some of the zeros would be fours, some of the fours would be zeros. It would be very different. That’s just the way it works.

“It’s ok if someone produces an unusual value. It’s ok to prioritize testing them more. That’s what you should do.

“But when a list comes out like that and it’s misinterpreted, it’s out of context, no one is giving everyone the perspective that unexpected performances are part of that.

“Why is Fabian Cancellara a zero? Well, he probably had very stable blood. Good. Perfect. Was him winning the prologue unexpected? No. Not at all. It was very expected.

“How about Geraint Thomas? Geraint Thomas was fifth in the prologue at the Tour de France (2010, :23 – Bikezilla). Was that unexpected? That was very unexpected.

“So, who’s Geraint Thomas? Would you not target him? You would.”

Bz:

The people who make this list, does someone give you the courtesy of informing you when blood values are out of line? So you can do something non-punitive on your own?

JV:

“No, not at all.

“This list, the way it’s set out, none of us had any idea about it. The first time I saw it was the same time you saw it.”

Bz:

Cycling fans are pretty emotional.

Seeing Tyler above a 0 really hurt a lot of people and that came out as anger. Most of that anger was directed at you.

JV:

“And that’s fine. But Tyler has never doped, will never dope.

“I don’t even know exactly why he’s a three. My guess is, he did the Giro that year, the Giro is a very hard race and it’s gonna drop your hematacrit considerably when you race in it, because of fatigue. As you rest before the Tour de France it’s going to come back up.

“If you look at that on a curve, it goes down, down, down, then it comes back up. So it’s like, oh, that’s an interesting up and down, we need to follow up on that.

“It really upsets me that that list was even released, because it doesn’t give people context.

“I prefer that they just release the raw blood data, rather than release that list. Because now you have this little nugget and you don’t know how those numbers were arrived at.

“I think it’s just a huge disservice. Whoever released it should be fired.

“To be frank, the custodians of that information, the fact that it somehow filtered its way out, and I don’t know if it was intentional or accidental, really need to think about the damage that they inflicted on the reputations of innocent athletes.”

Bz:

So when people wonder, why didn’t JV pull so-and-so non-punitively, you never had access to the information.

JV:

“No. I have access from the records of what WE do with Catlin’s and our program. Yeah, I have access to that.

Bz:

But you didn’t have The List and you didn’t have the data from that specific round of testing?

JV:

“No. No.

“Eventually they do post those test results. But, they don’t say, you’re a one or a six or an eight or whatever. They post the raw results on the Biological Passport for each individual rider.

“So, then you can access it. But that’s usually weeks and weeks after the fact.”

Bz:

Have you ever removed someone from competition because of issues with blood values?

JV:

“I can’t comment. If you want to prevent doping, you may have to pull someone out with values that give a 70% chance of having doped.

“But it would be wrong to publicly ruin someone’s reputation over a 70% probability, wouldn’t it?

“So, if I had, you would never know. But WADA would be informed before the athlete, so they could target.”

Bz:

In your “Connect the Dots” blog on CN, you discuss your (former and admittedly incorrect) condemnation of Xavier Tondo, based upon his association with dopers and his proximity to doping.

Many people look at your own association with dopers, your proximity to doping during your career as a rider, and some of your own statements and near or semi-acknowledgments regarding personal use of PEDs for their own “Ah ha!” attitudes about you.

I’m talking about things like the July 25, 2005 IM conversation you had with Frankie Andreu:

“That’s when I realized that Lance was really fooling us when he said that everybody was doing as we did… Believe me, as crazy as it may seem, Moreau didn’t take anything, his hematocrit was 39.”

Or mentioning that you’d never tested above 50% hematocrit (in a race), and when you said you weren’t worried about the retested 1999 Tour urine samples because you never took a urine test at that Tour. 

“I’d never tested (at a race) above 50 percent, except before the start of the ’99 Tour,” he said. “I told the team doctor ‘don’t worry, I’ve got a certificate, I’ve got a hall-pass for this (because he was a climber — Bikezilla)’,” he recalled. “But the doctor said it wasn’t me they were worried about, it was that the whole team was very close (to the 50 percent limit).”

Then, at least twice, once in your interview with Paul Kimmage, once with Sport24.com / Le Figaro, you’ve made statements that seem to confirm your personal use of PEDs, but in a way that you could say, “I never said that.” 

Here’s a part of your exchange with Kimmage:

PK: “Okay, fine. You are painting me a picture and I’m reading between the lines.”

JV: “And you’re welcome to read between the lines. I’m completely okay with that.”

PK: “My perception is that you doped.”

JV: “You’re an intelligent person, so your perception is . . . [laughs]”

PK: “I want a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.”

JV: “I know you want a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.”

PK: “I want to know: Did you dope? I want to know: Why did you dope? And I want to know how you felt about doping?”

JV: “And what I will tell you is that people are free to make the judgments they want out of my cycling career,” 

PK: “Jonathan, I don’t understand what your problem is here. It’s a valid question. I’m not going to walk away from it.”

JV: “I’m not asking you to walk away from it. I can see that you are trying to establish a background and that’s fine but what I’m saying is that I’m just not going  to talk about it and that’s it. You can take that however you want.”

Which comes across as a deeply hedged admission. It’s so close to an admission that it’s impossible not to wonder why you didn’t just take that one small step further and answer, “yes” to Kimmage question.

Then from your Sport24.com / Le Figaro interview:

— Question: (Sport24.com / Le Figaro): “One of the problems of cycling is it that most team managers’ current runners who were steeped in years of doping?” (restated, Isn’t the problem in cycling that most current team managers, themselves, have a history of doping? — Bikezilla)

Answer (Jonathan Vaughters): “Yes, obviously. 

“Myself, I was part of this generation “doped.” (I think it should have read (“this ‘doped’ generation”, but this is a translated text — Bikezilla)

“But if we have the right mindset, good ethics, we are the right people. Because we made these mistakes, we know the inner pain of living with this lie. 

“I do not want the new generation do the same thing. It is our responsibility to present a sport where there is no need to make these bad choices. 

“I have a ten year old boy. I do not know if he will make the bike but if it becomes cyclist, I will pass on my knowledge because I do not want him to enter the sport as it was before. 

“Instead, the best asset in cycling today is to have these people with that experience, because they have good intentions, they can prevent errors. 

“Let everyone realize he must take a new direction. It is a battle he must win.”

Bz:

That’s strong, but it’s still as close as you could get to making an admission without actually saying, “I used PEDs.”.

JV:

“Just to be very clear on that, the people who need to know the absolute, specific information and truth about my past, those people know that information. And I don’t have any problem with that.

“People who I have an obligation to be honest with, my family, my friends, my riders, I am.

“But do I think I need to make a big fuss over what occurred in my past and make me the center of attention and take that away from the riders I have? No.

“In fact, I think it’s fundamentally wrong that I create a big hullabaloo about myself. I think that’s wrong. I think it distracts from the riders’ focus. I think it distracts from the attention placed on the team. It think it’s just plain stupid.

“I mean, let’s not forget, I walked away from the sport when I was 29 years old, when I had a year left on a contract. I said, yeah, I’m outta here. I had a year left on my contract, I probably had a good five or six years left in my career. That’s the story.

“I feel like the decisions I made were the best decisions that I could have made at that point in time. Some of them were wrong, some of them were right. But the point is I lived it, I did it, I have moved on with my life.

“That’s just part of becoming an adult, or whatever you want to call it. You just have to go forward with life.

“Do I ignore or not confront the things in my past? No. That’s absolutely silly.

“Do I feel that I need to make a spectacle out of it? Absolutely not.

“Because I feel like that is a fundamental disservice to a lot of people.”

Bz:

But you’ve hinted at it and talked around it at least half a dozen times.

JV:

“Well, that’s fine, because I’m not going to be dishonest. I mean, if people ask me a direct question I’m not going to be dishonest about it. But, at the same time I’m not going to make a spectacle out of it.

“It’s like, ok, here’s some problems, everyone knows that I lived through a very hard generation in cycling. And, ok, acknowledged.

“And now it’s time to go on to the next step.

“That’s not blasé, saying I’m focusing on the future. No, that’s saying I acknowledge my past, I’m responsible for all those decisions. I’m responsible for the consequences of those decisions. Every single one of them.”

Bz:

Did you use PEDs? Are you one of those who lived (still live) with the guilt that you mention?

JV:

“I’ll say the same thing I said in Le Figaro, and the same thing I just said to you, I acknowledge every decision I made in my past. I acknowledge that there are consequences to those decisions and I have to live with that, you don’t. No one else does. It’s only me.”

Bz:

The history and whatnot mentioned above is big, very big, in the reasons casting doubt on your integrity, ethics, the validity of your commitment to anti-doping.  But what spawns the most doubt, for me and for many fans and writers, maybe more than the fact that you’ve never come out with an unequivocal statement about your own use of peds, is the fact that you’ve consistently refused to expose the guilty, to give names, dates, times, places.

When you counseled Floyd Landis not to give out that information except to law enforcement officials, it cemented that opinion for a lot of people.

It looks like you’re protecting the embedded culture of doping, the poisonous omerta, like you’re helping to perpetuate the use of PEDs, all while proclaiming to promote a culture of clean riding both on Garmin and within the greater peloton.

Is it fair that fans and writers connect those dots and draw those conclusions?

JV:

“No, that’s absolutely not fair and to be frank it’s ridiculous.

“At the end of the day fans and media outlets have no impact, or very little impact in actually changing the internal workings of cycling. There are people who can have a great impact.

“Those people are WADA, those people are potentially federal authorities or police services in other countries.

“Those people have an absolute need for the truth in order to do their jobs properly and in order to enforce the rules of the sport, or the country, correctly.

“Do I think that you have an absolute need for that information? No, I don’t.

“And I don’t see an ounce of hypocrisy in that.

“I think it’s blatantly put out there in that statement. It’s straight as an arrow.

“I don’t see any issue at all

“Some sort of informational, confessional, I don’t see how that possibly changes the life of an eighteen year old up and coming rider that is coming into the sport and that you’re trying to prevent him from ever being faced with the decision to use performance enhancing drugs or not.

“End of the day my mission, my focus, is to make sure that that rider never encounters that decision. To make sure that they get the same advice that Roger Legeay gave me.

“The rest of it, I see it as a waste of time and my effort is going to be placed in young riders, making sure that they have good choices put in front of them.”

Bz:

You’re inserted deeply and broadly within professional cycling. You’re success as a cycling professional off the bike has easily surpassed your success as a professional on it, and far exceeds anything that Lance Armstrong can claim.

With a growing number of important insiders (Landis, Tondo, Hamilton, Hincapie(ish)) coming forward, exposing themselves at considerable personal risk for the sake of truth and of cycling, will you be joining their ranks? Do you think it’s wrong of them to do that?

JV:

“No, I don’t think it’s wrong. I think that the choices they made are perfectly acceptable to me. That’s their choice and that’s fine. But I’m allowed to choose my path, as well.

“I’m allowed to do what I think is the most effective way of making sure that doping does not occur in this sport from here forward. I’m allowed to choose what I think is the best path forward, as well.

“And I’m sure that those guys are doing what they think is best. And that’s fine. I have no problem with that at all. But I think that I’m also allowed to do what I think is best.”

Bz:

You don’t think you could make a greater difference than they do in the same way? By exposing the things that you know?

JV:

“Like I said, I feel there are people, WADA and other authorities that have an absolute need for specific information in order to improve anti-doping and enforce the rules going forward. I don’t think that CBS news or whoever need that.

“I’ve been in contact with WADA for many, many years regarding improving anti-doping.”

Bz:

At least three times  Bikezilla has had visitors from the DOJ and FDA, on searches based on doping or Lance Armstrong. Twice, including 23 May 2011, those searches concerned you. The most recent was from the USDOJ “Lance Armstrong Jonathan Vaughters doping”.

Have you been contacted by any law enforcement agency seeking information you might have regarding doping, either within professional cycling in general, specifically at U.S. Postal or regarding Lance Armstrong?

JV:

“I have not appeared in front of a Grand Jury at this time. I fully expect that at some point I will, or that I’ll be asked to.

As of here and now, today, that hasn’t happened.”

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One Response to “Jonathan Vaughters Interview: Part 2: Ethics, Roger Legeay, The List, PEDs”

  1. SuperFred said

    Great interview… good stuff.

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