Bikezilla

Ride the Puddles

Jonathan Vaughters Interview: Postscript: The Article About the Article

Posted by bikezilla on June 10, 2011


Part 1, Part 2, Postscript

The Interview

Back near the end of Februrary (2011) I was in a multi-tweeter conversation between Jonathan Vaughters, me, and several other people. During that conversation JV invited me to interview him, and he gave me the email to his media rep, Marya Pongrace.

I asked what form JV would prefer the interview to be in, and said that due to the sensitive nature of the questions that I’d be happy to submit it via email to give him a better chance to consider his responses before replying.

That was the option he chose, and so a few days later I emailed Marya a longish interview entirely centered on JV’s personal experiences with doping and with his general knowledge of doping within professional cycling.

After two weeks there was no response. I started sending weekly requests to Marya, asking for an approximate response date, or an indication that JV had chosen not to respond.

To each of these emails I received not so much as an acknowledgement. And after each silent “fuck off” I cursed a wicked stream of curses at Marya and at JV and what I perceived as a total lack of courtesy and professionalism.

But at the two month mark there was a glimmer of hope. Marya wrote to say that she could not find the interview email and requested that I resubmit.

Whew. Ok. No big at all. I mean, I can’t even keep track of my wallet and Marya undoubtedly handles, directs and keeps track of myriad calls and emails every day.

I almost felt bad for all the mean things I’d thought about her.

Hence the process began again of weeks with no response and no acknowledgement to any of my emails.

I was feeling frustrated and played with. Angry. More curses ensued.

Eventually I asked JV, via Twitter, if he might know when he could reply, or if he could tell me that he’d chosen not to. It ended with another re-submission.

And another round of no responses and no acknowledgments to follow up emails, and so more curses.

I was about to give up and publish the “interview” with questions and background, quotes and links to supporting articles, when, POOF, JV had started following me on Twitter and sent me a Direct Message (DM) to discuss comments I’d tweeted regarding The List.

This conversation ended with him calling me an asshole, but providing his direct email and again telling me to contact him “whenever” for an interview.

That was just before the Amgen Tour of Cali, where JV was going to be playing DS, so I decided to wait until the week after the race.

But when I contacted him about it he seemed reluctant: “You’ll just tear me to pieces.” he said.

I don’t know if he was joking, because I don’t know him well enough to tell when he’s screwing with me, especially via 140 character blurbs, and when he’s serious.

But to sooth his possible concerns, and to quiet the cursing inside my head, I offered to send him an outline / script of the interview, and he was ok with that.

He gave me his phone number and I set things up for that Thursday.

I was leery. When I called, would it be Marya answering? Would she give me a run around? Would I have to play this game on and on regardless how I contacted him?

It was tough to hold back the cursing in my head, but I managed to fight it off.

But, the number he gave me was actually his personal Blackberry number. I was relieved and maybe just a little surprised.

Now I have to say that the interview I ended up doing was not the original interview. It contained the first part of it, but left a lot still on the table. Why? Because I could cover more ground, include more general information, and I could also approach the main subject without jumping right into it and have JV feeling pummeled or ambushed from word one.

And if I’m to be completely honest I also understood that JV didn’t really have any reason to trust me with the full original interview, especially considering that I’ve beat up on him several times on Bikezilla.

So I thought that if I cut things short this time, maybe some time down the road I could get to what I really want to talk about with him either as a subject or a source.

Providing that outline to JV helped out a lot, in the end. Because, since he already knew the content and context of what I wanted to get at, I could simply say, “Ok, I’m at this point in the outline.” and then just give him the basic idea of what I wanted to discuss, instead of going over every single word and quote and idea at length. So it helped shorten things up considerably and made it all a lot less frustrating (at least for me).

The outline also kept me focused. As the interview progressed, the conversation and the questions became more sensitive, and I could tell that JV was more on edge, maybe a little defensive. But I didn’t have to hem and haw and think about how and where maybe I should back off, or get flustered and start forgetting things. I just had to stay focused on the outline and let it guide me through the discomfort and the tenseness.

As things became more sensitive and tense, JV could have hung up on me at any time, or said, “Dude, you know what, you’re just a fucking peon blogger and I don’t need to take this shit from you.”. But he didn’t. He stuck with me and remained focused and respectful.

I was impressed, and again pleasantly surprised.

I wasn’t done being surprised.

JV contacted me again via Twitter DM to fill in some info that he left out because “The way you asked that ? made me a little defensive”. Then, not once but twice, he called me back. The first time I was certain it had to be an accident, a pocket dial.

But no. He wanted to give me some off the record information that would explain some things and, as he would say, give me “some perspective”.

The interview itself was flat on a personal level. There was no real connection there. But I hadn’t expected one. It was what I had anticipated.

The process, from late February until completion, was long and more than frustrating. In fact, it had me outright pissed off for weeks at a time.

But it was also rewarding on several levels.

But the phone call (singular, because I missed the call the first time) was different. It felt comfortable, easy, like I was hanging out in the backyard and talking to one of my friends.

Internal Conflict

The post-interview DMs left me feeling a little lost. They weren’t officially “off the record”, but some of them were sensitive, and because they were in DM and so intentionally not in public view, and not in a common response media like an email, I made an assumption that they were intended to be off limits.

They, plus portions of the interview itself, left me feeling conflicted, and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s tough to honor both the subject and the topic, and tougher when you like and respect the person you’re interviewing and not wanting to violate the trust they’ve placed in you, but not wanting to puss out, either.

Thankfully Twitter has allowed me contact with several people who’ve done far more interviews than I have, and who’ve done more “big” interviews.

So I sought advice from one of them and got some great guidance without being told what to do.

That guidance helped me balance my thoughts and obligations as a human vs my thoughts and obligations as a writer. It also gave me the following thoughts on JV and his continued refusal to give an unequivocal, “Yes I used peds”.

“I don’t need a full accounting from JV. He participated in that doping culture, in that era, got sick of it, left, tried to come back and do it a better way. I don’t need him to address
when, how many times, with what, with who.

“I dispute the fact that every sinner must disclose every detail of every sin. Would you?

“Think of the most vile acts of your life, your own part in them, and think of telling not just someone closest to you, but the whole world, having your worst moment of weakness live
on then as your legacy for relatives or grand-grand-grand children who never
knew you to know you by. Not just that you did something wrong — which I think
is often best to admit — but the most minute details of how and why and when
and to whom and with what disregard you did it, and how you later lied about
(because we all have), and to find out that you are no longer a human who did
something human and tried to go on from ere, but that you are forever now a
liar, a cheater, an adulterer, whatever.”

My Opinion

My opinion of JV hasn’t changed. As I’ve said before, I think he’s “a pirate and a good man”.

JV provided this:

“Piracy was never solved by the Royal Navy. Corruption prevented solution. Henry Morgan, a pirate, or former pirate, was the single most responsible for the end of piracy in the Caribbean, after he was hired by the Royal Navy.”

There are serious issues that raise questions against his ethics and integrity. The two most glaring, for me, are:

1. His SCA deposition, where it seems clear to many people (including me) that he perjured himself with damned near every word he said, at a time when he could have blown Lance Armstrong and doping right out of the water, but chose not to.

CORRECTION:

JV:

“I was never deposed at SCA. Ever. I signed an affidavit saying I had no first hand knowledge of doping in 2005.

I did not have first hand knowledge of doping at usps in 2005. How could I? I was retired and out of the loop.

Never deposed. Never subpoenaed. Had nothing to do with SCA.”

2. The Trent Lowe / Matt White issue. The stories never matched up, and JV’s own account did not seem consistent, and why he never reported Lowe’s irregular blood values to WADA or UCI. There’s something ugly swimming beneath the surface, and neither Vaughters nor Lowe nor White is eager for us to learn about it.

I’ve been asked why those issues weren’t covered in this interview. It’s simple, either of them could consume an entire interview on its own. I could not have done them justice, here, and they would have been threads off of the path I’d intended to follow.

In short, they just didn’t fit.

But, if you take those suspicious issues into consideration, and you look at JV and then at his peers, who among them all would you most readily see in JV’s current position of influence? Who would you put the most faith in as our crusader against the evils of doping and the corruption in the system?

Johan Bruyneel? Lance Armstrong? Bill Stapleton? Jim Ochowicz? John Lelangue? Bjarne Riis? Kim Anderson?

If you didn’t scream, “FUCK NO!” after every name on that list then I can only assume that you’re either one of their mothers, or you’re smoking crack as you read this.

I’ll take Vaughters over any of them, and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s him and not them championing our cause.

If you distrust Vaughters, how far do you take that?

He’s sang the praises of Roger Legeay and Legeay’s ethics and integrity. Yet Legeay himself was
busted for taking amphetamines in 1974 at Paris – Nice.

Do you erase Legeays credibility, too? Is there an association of dishonor that makes both men doubly damned by their links to each other?

For those of us who have trouble reconciling Jonathan Vaughters philosophy with our own, here’s what I see as a great and reasonable evaluation.

To sum that up, JV follows an insiders strategy that is a slow route to change, but one that doesn’t risk destroying or humiliating the sport, or scaring away sponsors, to create change.

It’s a patient, intelligent strategy, but still leaves JV open to criticisms and concerns regarding his ethics, honesty, integrity and his commitment to anti-doping. And I think all of that is entirely fair.

That is obviously a price he’s willing to pay, though just as obviously it’s not a price he pays with any joy.

I think that while he accepts that he’s left himself open to questions and criticism and he is largely ok with that, there are times when it stings him, hurts him, when it really leaves him bleeding.

In conclusion, I fully believe that JV was a dope sucking weasel during his time at U.S. Postal and when he set the record for climbing Mt Ventoux, that he lied under oath during the Lance Armstrong vs SCA trial, that something smells like rotten fish around the Trent Lowe affair, that the
opening to his personal statement on the Slipstream website is a crock-o-crap and should be amended, and that there are times when he blatantly bullshits us and plays us for fools.

But I also think that he’s a good man and genuine, that he is sincere in his desire and efforts to clean up cycling from the inside without tearing it apart first and that, overall, he is worthy of my trust.

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