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Thoughts: Martin Hardie

Posted by bikezilla on November 8, 2011


Remember, this series is excerpted from my raw research notes. There are only a few differences:

1. I’ve corrected most of the typos.

2. I’ve turned disconnected words and phrases in my notes into full sentences, so that someone other than me (you, for instance) will understand them.

3. I’ve formatted the links.

4. I’ve cut out some of the non-relevant thoughts (that is, relevant to the current Thought blurb).to avoid devolving threads.

——-

In the last “Thoughts” I speculated that Martin Hardie is a primary antagonist in the saga of Trent Lowe vs Jonathan Vaughters and Slipstream Sports.

James
Stout said via Twitter:
“. . . we
both (James and Trent) contacted Martin (Hardie) ATF(after the fact)
They both
contacted Martin only after the being fired by their respective teams? Is this accurate?
From his Cycling Tips interview

CT:
So when you were recovering in Denver you started talks with Pegasus. How did that come about?”
[Trent Lowe] 
Martin (Hardie) suggested I talk with Henk Vogels.”


Vogels was Pegasus’ DS.


What was the time frame?


From the same interview:


CT:
When did you begin speaking with Pegaus?”
[Trent Lowe] 
Not until July or August (2010).”


So, Martin Hardie was in the picture and counseling Lowe, at very least, in July or August of 2010, but Lowe wasn’t fired until late December 2010 or early January 2011.

When and how did Lowe’s relationship with Hardie begin? Was it ongoing?


From the same interview:

CT:
How
to you know Martin Hardie and what’s your relationship with him?”
[Trent
Lowe]:  
Basically
I met Martin when he started to interview me for that report (New
Pathways to Pro Cycling) at the Sun Tour 2009. I was happy to do that
and we got to know one another more since then. We’ve stayed in
touch as the year’s gone by
.”


Trent Lowe himself establishes that:


1.  Hardie’s contact with him was ongoing throughout the periods in question.


2. That Hardie pressed him to contact Pegasus without any notification of Jonathan Vaughters (and with no attempt to let Vaughters accept or reject the possibility of extending Lowe’s contract with Garmin) until months later.


3. That while Lowe indeed may have contacted Hardie after the firing, it was by no means his first contact with Hardie regarding the situation with Garmin and JV.





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Followups: Interviews

Posted by bikezilla on November 6, 2011


I get scattered comments, tweets and emails about the interviews I have up on Bikezilla and Cyclismas, usually in regards to my relationship with or feelings about the subjects of those interviews.

So I figured I’d address the most common, here.

— You must really dislike James Stout.

Since we just had a short exchange on Twitter, this one came to mind first.

Dislike James? That’s not at all true.

There were things that happened during the run up to and after our interview that I took personally, perhaps in error, that irked me. THAT is true.

But, on the whole, I think James is a fantastic person. This opinion is bolstered by the fact that people who have had random contact with James have made a point to mention how he’s had a positive and sometimes life changing impact on them.

Another thing that greatly increases my opinion of James is that while he does a lot of volunteering of his time in an effort to educate diabetics in poor neighborhoods, you NEVER hear him boasting about doing this or that, and you NEVER hear him complain about how hard it is or how much time he spends doing it.

I personally believe that when you do a good deed, that it should remain between you and the person you’ve helped. I admire James greatly for this trait.

As far as I’m aware, there is no bad blood between us. I’m not saying we’re bestest best buds, but we’re not enemies.

— Why were you so mean to Chris Smith from Lazer Sports?

Mean? Hmmmmmm.

I believe, and maybe I’m wrong, that Chris understood going in, that he was, in part, a sacrificial lamb on behalf of the industry. That was not the entire point of the interview, not even close, and I did try to get some input from POC to ease the burden on Chris.

There are issues, or perceived issues, with the bicycle helmet industry that I wanted to address. Chris was gracious enough to step onto the pyre of his own free will to help me out.

I sincerely apologize if it seems (especially to Chris) that I unfairly bashed him or Lazer. I believe Chris is a guy with very high integrity and that Lazer is doing more than most companies to combat known shortcomings in the legal testing standards for bicycle helmets. He’s a good guy and they’re a good company.

To the best of my knowledge everything is cool between Chris and me.

Chris, I’m sorry if you felt ambushed or disrespected. That was never my intent or desire.

— Do you really think JV is good for professional cycling? Or were you just kissing his ass because he gave you a good interview?

Well, when you put it like that, it kind of makes it hard to answer without seeming like I’m just sucking up to JV, doesn’t it? I also think it’s interesting that this comes up repeatedly, because I know that immediately after the final article in our interview series went up, JV did not feel that I’d been especially kind to him.

But, yes, I really do believe that Jonathan Vaughters is good for professional cycling. That is not to say I think he’s a saint or that he’s 100% honest and transparent, or that he never puts self-interest ahead of the sport’s best interest.

As I’ve said several times, JV is the model for the phrase, “a pirate and a good man”.

JV inspires VERY intense emotional responses. There are people who hate his guts and think that because he refuses to openly admit that he was a dope sucking weasel when he rode professionally, that he cannot and should not be trusted. Ever.

I can only say that based on the total body of his public statements, and based on personal conversations I’ve had with him, on and off the record, that I trust him to lead professional cycling and that I think he does so with a reasonable amount of integrity and honesty.

— Do you really believe that Bill Strickland is not bought and paid for by Lance Armstrong?

Bill is very much like Greg LeMond in one respect: When he sees that someone has done something shitty, he’s very inclined to view that as a good person who happened to do a bad thing, rather than as a bad thing that was done because the person behind the act was also bad.

I won’t rehash the entire Postscript of our interview, here. But, yes, I 100% believe that Bill Strickland is a man and a journalist of very high integrity and that he is not bought and paid for by Lance Armstrong. That is NOT the belief I had going in to our conversation, but it is my belief now.

— After you interview these guys, are you like buddies or something?

Um, no. Not at all.

I have only rare contact with any of the people I’ve interviewed.

James and I have very little contact, all  of it via Twitter.

Chris and I spoke very briefly about the Afterword and his response, and like I said, as far as I know we’re cool.

JV is just way too busy for casual, “Hey, how ya been?” kind of emails and I would feel disrespectful even sending that kind of thing. We’ve had a couple very brief exchanges via Twitter.

Bill has been great. I’ve contacted him a couple of times, seeking his professional advice and opinion. He’s responded in a polite, friendly, professional manner, telling me his thoughts without at all saying, “This is what you should do.” But, again, I never write him just to find out what’s up. I’d feel like I was being intrusive and disrespectful.

Non-of these guys writes me just to check in.

I like and respect every one of them, but I’m not friends with any of them.

It’d be cool to meet all of them. I think I’d like a couple of them a lot on a personal level. But, no, I’m not buddies with any of them.

However, two of the interviews I still love the most are tiny deals that hardly anyone even notices.

Those were my interviews with Rebecca Rusch and Joe Lawwill. about clipless pedals.

No one had even heard of Bikezilla when I did those interviews. In fact during the offseason over that time period I had contacted Cadel Evans for a short interview of a similar nature. His agent politely told me no thanks there was enough of that kind of article out there. But, Rebecca and Joe were both great.

They were both big deals in MTB and I was this schmoe blog writer. They had no reason to say “yes” and they were paid nothing. Yet, they still took the time to talk to me. It was and still is incredibly cool to me.

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Thoughts: Martin Hardie

Posted by bikezilla on November 6, 2011


Martin Hardie, the lawyer who helped but did not represent James Stout, is also the lawyer who represents Trent Lowe.

What are the common threads between Stout and Lowe?

1. They both dealt with a mysterious alienation between themselves and the managers of their teams. They seemed to have a sound relationship, then all or nearly all communication stopped, seemingly with malice on the part of the managers (Phil Southerland at Team Type 1, Jonathan Vaughters at Garmin).

2. The both had / have issues that don’t seem to make sense surrounding their separation from their teams.

 

3. Both dealt with or are dealing with their former teams and managers refusing to pay them and / or withholding bonus money after separation.

4. Both were counseled by Martin Hardie.

In both cases Hardie was antagonistic toward the teams and managers.

In both cases Hardie displayed a habit of making provocative public statements, then sitting back and maintaining that neither he nor his charge was able to speak on the matter due to pending legal actions. We are just to ignore the fact that he continues to throw out little jabs and poison barbs during the entire period of said pending legal actions.

In both cases Hardie’s charges demonstrated both fear and paranoia based solely on information and counsel gained directly from Hardie.

Martin Hardie seems to be poison disguised as caring, causing more harm than good in any situation that he touches, giving advice that damages not only whatever current situation his charge may be in, but also the future career potential of those charges.

I have to wonder if Hardie’s advice and interference was the direct cause of the rifts that opened between Stout and Southerland, and Lowe and Vaughters.

Hardie utterly lacks professionalism. Here is an example of an email he sent to JV:

I am trying to be open and honest with you.

I am also trying to keep Trent from blowing his lid and going public. I have made it fucking clear as to when and how he will talk to you. Just tell me now if you will pay him or not and when. If not I will let him do what he likes and you can deal with that without me helping. It is really quite fucking simple. I don’t know why you are being such a scrooge about paying him.”

If Hardie is not the root cause of the conflicts between Stout and Southerland, as well as those between Lowe and Vaughters, then he is at a minimum a contributing factor.

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Thoughts: Trent Lowe, Jonathan Vaughters, Matt White

Posted by bikezilla on November 5, 2011


Jim Barlow, Vice President of Finance, Slipstream Sports, promises Lowe his $2,000 bonus, admits that the bonus has been EARNED and promises it to be paid in January 2011.

Yet, it was never paid.

Why is JV risking serious legal action in refusing to pay money that the team admits Lowe has earned? Why is he withholding money that he legally owes Lowe, punitively?

We learn that in August of 2010 Trent Lowe informed JV of the intended move to Pegasus, but not of what form that exchange took place.

Then we learn that Martin Hardie discussed the same issue with JV via email in September 2010.

Yet, JV stated that he was never made aware of this, by anyone at any time in any manner.

Clearly now we see that JV is not being honest when he speaks of the Lowe issue.

But, why? And why when it’s no difficult matter to prove him to be lying?

Again, this just doesn’t fit what we know of JV. He lacks the reputation for being a guy who fucks with his riders or even his former riders, who screws with them about pay issues, who deals with them dishonestly.

So, again I have to ask myself, WTF? What is going on here? What is the source of this bad blood between them? Why is JV demonstrating such malice toward Lowe? What is its root? And why are all parties (Lowe, JV and White) all so intent on hiding it from the world?

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Thoughts: Trent Lowe, Jonathan Vaughters, Matt White

Posted by bikezilla on October 30, 2011


This is a new series, which will simply contain blurbs of my thoughts, related to things the I’m researching for larger articles or interviews.

They may seem to be cut from the center of something larger, thoughts snatched form within thoughts, incomplete on their own.

That’s because they are.

My hope is that they will inspire you to ask your own questions and increase interest in the subject matter itself.

Tom / Bikezilla

Trent Lowe had informed JV (in writing?) about his intent to sign with Pegasus, which would seem naturally to indicate that at least a possibility of Lowe attending training camp at Pegasus in November 2010.

Lowe, clearly should have followed through with the formality of gaining written consent to attend the training camp. But, considering that JV was fully aware of Lowe’s intention to leave Garmin for Pegasus, was this really such a sticky situation that it merited firing Lowe and confiscation of his salary and bonuses?

Or was it merely an excuse to end the relationship in a passive aggressive manner?

This issue itself shows a considerable malice directed from JV toward Lowe. I find this surprising, in that JV is widely and commonly known to be a “riders’ manager”. JV, more than any other manager, seems to view his riders first as human beings and second as racers on his team.
So, where did this bad blood come from?

Is it entirely related to the del Moral problem? And since it was Matt White who sent Lowe there, and since White clearly did so with intent, why is JV directing his ire at Lowe?

There is something in this that none of the involved parties is sharing.

JV claimed, in Velo News, that he had in fact NEVER been informed by Trent Lowe (nor by Svein Tuft), that they were intending to move to Pegasus.

Yet, JV himself had made no effort to speak to Lowe regarding ANY topic, seemed to very intentionally avoid any type of communication and had not made even preliminary efforts at extending Lowes contract with Garmin.

It’s also interesting that VeloNews knew in September 2010 that Tuft was leaving for Pagasus, but JV claims to have been ignorant.

This is just one of many areas where the stories do not mesh and where there is evidence of something deeper and hidden going on out of the public view.

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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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Jonathan Vaughters Interview: Part 1: ‘Burns, Fans, Journalists, French Teams

Posted by bikezilla on June 3, 2011


Part 1, Part 2, Postscript

This is Part 1 of my interview with Jonathan Vaughters, the greatest societal menace since Jack the Ripper.

From May 26, 2011

Bikezilla:

What’s the status of the Shave the Burns Fund, because I know a lot of people would like to see those go.

Jonathan Vaughters:

(Laughing) “I tried to get some kind of little thermometer graphics on the website. Our web designer rolled his eyes and kind of grumbled off.

But last I heard we were around 3 or 4 thousand dollars away. It went really fast initially and then kind of slowed down. I guess one of these days I need to reinvigorate the campaign to get us over the edge.”

Bz:

What specifically are those funds going to be used for?

JV:

“It’s just travel funds for the U23 team.

The U23 team and the Continental team, it’s a little different from the Pro team the way we run the budget. The way we run the budget is the guys just go to race, go to races, go to races. Then all of a sudden some time in August or thereabouts they run out of money and that’s it.

This year they got an invitation to do the Tour of Purtugal, which is in August.

I figured, wah, it’s a little expensive. It’s almost a two week stage race and a little bit more of an undertaking than we typically deal with on the Conti team. So I figured, let’s see if we can raise the funds to send the guys there; Plane tickets, rooms, food and gas.

That’s pretty much it. It’s kind of an X factor in Continental team budget.

You can’t run a Pro team until it runs out of money. But with a Continental team you can as long as you continue to pay your staff and whatnot. But the travel funds . . . you hope to get a little more if you can, to help run the season a little bit longer.”

Bz: How do you split your time running two cycling teams?

JV:

“I don’t really run the Continental team. I oversee it. I fund raise for it. I’m the rah-rah guy.

Chan McRae runs the program. I help him out a little bit here and there. He runs it, I go and try to find money so he can run the program.”

Bz:

In a 2005 CyclingNews interview you said:

“A poker face is perhaps the greatest asset of a director.” 

You extend that to your dealings with fans and detractors. In fact I’ve seen it commented that you’re nearly unflappable.  Paul Kimmage said, “His calm is unnerving.”. 

When you speak in a public forum, you’re pretty good at maintaining that, even when you’re being heckled and badgered.

But your answers are very careful and often very general.

JV:

“I keep it under the surface, that’s for sure.

If the riders on a team feel that you’re stressed out about something, then they’re going to get stressed out and they’ll perform at a lower level. So it’s important to always be, just dead calm and make decisions the best way you can.

I’m actually, underneath it all, a pretty emotionally fired up person. But, I always do my best to make sure that that fire and that passion gets directed in a very long term and positive way. And it isn’t just unleashed in a fury that isn’t necessarily productive and doesn’t really accomplish what I want.

So, it’s a real discipline to, when you get fired up about something, to keep it calm and say, ‘Ok, I want this to change, and the way for me to make it change is X, Y and Z. That’s gonna take longer than me just screaming and yelling for the next ten minutes.’”

Bz:

I’ve noticed that the times you really seemed to get riled publicly, are the times that something is centered on one of your riders.

JV:

“Yeah, it’s usually not about me. I’m very defensive about my riders, that’s for sure. That’ll upset me.”

Bz:

You take it very personally. Almost like they’re family members instead of merely employees.

JV:

“Yes. Absolutely.

“More than anything else, when I read stuff that just is not a correct account, or it just doesn’t show a certain deep understanding of the situation, I sometimes get upset about (fans and media – Bikezilla) jumping to conclusions.

“Most of the time I keep my little Paul Kimmage Zen-like facade.”

Bz:

Except for the last couple of weeks, when you speak to the public you’re pretty good at maintaining that, even when you’re heckled and badgered.

JV:

“Most of the time if you actually want people to hear you, you can’t start yelling at them. If you’re yelling at someone, occasionally you do have to take it up that notch, but most of the time that means you’ve already lost the battle.”

Bz:

But while you talk to a lot of people on all different levels of and connection to cycling, you don’t reveal very much. 

It seems that your major focus is not to disseminate information, but to put out fires, to manage public opinion, to calm shrieking, angry fans. You invest significant time and effort toward that, and you’re very good at it.. But why is that effort important to you when you have so much else going on?

JV:

“More than anything else I think I try to make sure people have a correct perspective.

A lot of times, just shooting out information, that UCI list that was leaked is a great example, that information was not in context. So you’re right, I never give out information that’s not in context. Because not everyone is going to have enough perspective to make heads or tails of it.

People jump to conclusions and they make assumptions, and I don’t like that. So, you’re right, I’m more focused on getting their perspective correct than I am in disseminating information.”

Bz:

You’re more available and available to a larger cross-section of people than any of your peers. It’s not just journalists, but even schmo fans – like me. It’s unprecedented.

JV:

“There’s an importance to that. I feel like right now cycling is at a real crux moment, and people are either going to understand everything that’s transpired in the last 20 years and understand how it can go forward, or they’re not and they going to come to the wrong conclusions and be destructive about it.

The way I see it is, if the core has a good, positive way forward, you have to have as many knowledgeable fans, people who really do understand the ins and outs as possible.

So if you understand a little bit better than your mom or your grandpa, or your Uncle Willy or whoever, for instance the issues of the past couple weeks, when they say, ‘Aw, this sport that you like, Tom, everyone is a crook in it and what the hell is this?’, then you can say, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. Actually, X, Y and Z.” And you can explain it to them.

And at that point and time maybe you can do that with five people, so the way it multiplies is huge, and eventually your broader public understands everything a little bit better than just what gets blasted out to them.

I go on the theory that an educated consumer is my best friend.”

Bz:

So even though you have yourself spread far and wide throughout professional cycling, talking to fans and bloggers and whatnot is an investment you make. You’re not just doing it for fun, there’s a purpose behind it.

JV:

“Absolutely. It’s not a strategy, per se. I’ve been accused of that, ‘Oh, there’s a specific PR strategy.’ But not really. If you read my Twitter feed you’ll find it’s not that specific a strategy.

I just figure, like I said, an educated consumer really is my best friend. I feel that that’s important.

I like reading comments when I see people really understand the sport.

In places like in Belgium, in Flanders, people really understand the sport.

But the Anglo-Saxon body of cycling fans, well, there’s been a huge influx of cycling fans since about 2000 . A lot of them came into the sport watching Lance (Armstrong) win the Tour de France.

Watching Lance win the Tour is, nine guys go to the front, they throttle it on every hill and the race is won and that’s that.

Where as now they’re watching races like Paris – Roubaix and the tactics are really complicated. And there’s multiple really complicated things going on in the sport.

So you have the huge body of fans that really looove the sport, and they want to understand it, but they didn’t grow up with these highly nuanced races. They grew up with, “This guy (Lance) kicked ass and isn’t that awesome. So, now they’re being forced to look at the sport in a very highly nuanced way, and I think it causes confusion, a little bit of anger. People don’t always like it.

I figure, the more people you can get to understand what’s really going on, the better. Because then they’re going to stick around a little bit more. They won’t feel alienated by all this stuff going on, all these tangential items.”

Bz:

Compared to sports like American football or baseball, cycling has a lot more going on, a lot more to learn, a lot more to know.

NFL football, for instance, in some ways it’s made to be easier to follow.. You have a team, that team is linked to a certain city, it’s there for decades, the players have constant numbers, the numbers represent certain positions.

Cycling doesn’t have any of that. You can’t count on a sponsor, and so a team, being around for more than 2, 3 maybe 5 years if you’re lucky.

JV:

“I just did an interview with Flammecast where I was explaining that people need to understand that cycling is a team oriented sport and come to be fans of teams as opposed to individuals, and that actually benefits the athletes as much as it benefits the team.

“Sponsors want long term fan appreciation, they want the fans to be aware of them, they want long term fan loyalty. In order to get long term fan loyalty to a team, as opposed to an individual, the sport first has to be perceived as a team sport.

“If you’re a Fabian Cancellara fan and he goes around to three or four different teams, you’ll just be a fan of whatever team he goes to. Conversely, if you’re a Saxo Bank fan or a Leopard fan, then its irrelevant where Fabian Cancellara is going, what’s important is that you’re a supporter of that team.

“I think cycling has to get there if it wants financial stability.

“You’re absolutely right (about sponsorship duration – Bikzilla), but how do you get sponsors to stick around longer? Because I can tell you that none of us are pushing the sponsors away. We want the sponsors to stick around longer. But, the only way you make sure they stay for a long time is if you have fans that are like, ‘Listen, I’m a Garmin fan, dammit, and I’m always gonna be a Garmin fan and I’m always gonna buy Garmin products.” and you get that fan loyalty going. Then all of a sudden sponsors will be around for ten or twenty years.”

Bz:

In your CN blog, “Connecting the Dots” you talk about internet pundits, bloggers, twiterati, you say:

 “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 vigil-antism. Clearly.”

And, of course, you’re right, people on the internet seem to be a lot harder on you than cycling’s “real journalists”. On the other hand, shouldn’t it be those “real journalists” asking you the questions you get from bloggers and twiterati? Shouldn’t those “real journalists” be doing the badgering, the accusing? And if they did, wouldn’t that pretty handily take the wind out of internet pundits’ sails?

JV:

“Yeah. That’s because the difference is, with real journalists I sit down in my living-room with them and I talk to them. They get to know me as a person.

At 140 characters at a time you’re never going to get to know me. All I am is this distance talking head.

Journalists know that I’ve got a dog and a back yard and a little kid. It’s a totally different interaction.

With a journalist you can convey what you’re trying to say and you can get them to basically say, ‘shit, I believe you, I like this, I buy into it.’ And then they write in the tone of what they feel about the person they sat down with. They see me as a human being.

There’s no way I’m going to be able to sit down with a hundred thousand bloggers.

My thought before was try to communicate through the journalists, because you can convey who you actually are to them and then let them put it forward.

I still believe that’s a good way to go about it. But, then I’ve also been interested, ‘You know, maybe I need to try better to convey who I am through the broader social media.

I don’t know. It’s much more difficult. It’s just hard.

People just don’t always see me as human. They see me as a talking head. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Bz:

I think that part of what people get frustrated with, is that they’ll read an article and there’s a question or an inconsistency that should have been followed up, but no one asks anything, they don’t say a word.

JV:

“Right. You know, a lot of the time . . . well, like that interview I did with Paul Kimmage.

Paul Kimmage sat in my living-room and got very upset with me and said, “Why won’t you answer this question?’ And he had every right to be (upset).

I told him, ‘I understand why you’re asking the question, to be frank I’m not going to answer that. You have the right to, and I understand why and it’s a totally acceptable question. But, I’m just not gonna go there right now.’

So, a lot of times I think people get frustrated with those interviews thinking that the question hasn’t been breached, but that’s not necessarily the case.

A lot of times, just like with Paul Kimmage, I just don’t answer it.”

Bz:

So a journalist may have asked a question, but because they don’t include your non-answer in the write up it may seem that they haven’t pursued something when they have?

JV:

“Obviously people are very curious about my 1999 past with U.S. Postal, but the fact of the matter is, that has nothing to do with Slipstream Sports.”

Bz:

The perception that the “real journalists” are not badgering, accusing, following up or asking questions is not always accurate?

JV:

“No, it is not always accurate. But, you know, they can’t force an answer out of you.

Most of the journalists in cycling are pretty hard-hitting.”

Bz:

French teams, who have the largest representation in the professional, elite level peloton, don’t perform to the level of their numbers. You’ve said that you believe French teams struggle because they’re cleaner. The recently leaked “secret list” would seem to confirm that. 

JV:

“You have to remember that the numbers on that list had a performance component, too. There was a performance component, and an unexpected performance component, and a when your most recent test was component AND the blood component. So, if you have a very low performing rider AND you have a very flat-line blood value, you’re going to be a zero.

David Millar is the best example; he’s a four (on the list – Bikezilla). David Millar has very, very stable blood values. Why is he a four? David is a four because David has a previous doping infraction. So, he’s always going to be targeted. And I’ve always been told that, from the beginning; ‘This rider will always be targeted no matter what.’

Ok, well that’s fair. I don’t see a problem with that.

I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think that less necessarily is totally reflected.

Did French cycling take very strong steps to clean up its own act well in advance of it becoming popular on a broader scale?

Yes. Absolutely, they did.

Does that account for all of the performance discrepancies between French teams and other teams? No. Absolutely not.

I think there are a number of factors at play in French teams.

One is, I’m an American team, how many Americans do I have on my team?

There’s also a component of, they have a lot of teams and they have the Tour de France in their home country.

You said it’s the largest component the Tour de France peloton. Yeah, you’re right, it is. So, it’s a little bit easier if you’re a good French rider to get on a team, than it is if you’re a good American rider or you’re a good Australian rider.

A lot of your Americans and Australians and other countries, they have to fight, they have to claw tooth and nail to get a contract.

So the winning and athletic level tends to be a little bit higher (on non-French teams – Bikezilla). Go to the U23 ranks, go to the Junior ranks. Who’s winning World time trail championships? Who’s winning World road championships? It’s Americans, it’s Australians, it’s British. It has not been French for a little while. With the exception recently of Romain Sicard winning the Tour de L’Avenir (2009 – Bikezilla) and Jerome Coppel doing well in the World Championships (U23 Time Trial: Bronze 2006 & 2007 – Bikezilla) a few years back.

So, my point is, you cannot draw the conclusion that it’s totally because these teams are doped and these teams aren’t. That’s taking certain data points and taking them out of context and not putting other data points in the equation.

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The List

Posted by bikezilla on May 14, 2011


For not strictly being cycling journalists, the guys at L’Equipe dig up a lot of really big stuff. Unfortunately that “really big stuff” almost always focuses on doping and is almost always an embarrassment to the sport on some level.

They recently published a secret UCI list (henceforth known simply as The List) intended for use in targeting the most suspect riders found through use of the biological passport.

The problem is that UCI seems to be turning a blind eye on almost all of them.

According to the article:

“Those in categories six and above (6-10) showed “overwhelming” evidence of some kind of doping, due to “recurring anomalies”, “enormous variations” in parameters, and even the “identification of doping products or methods””

The riders in categories 6-10, again as pointed out in the article, number 42. That’s approximately 1/4 of the total Tour de France starting field of 198 riders.

So far “targeted” riders have responded by basically saying the list is a bunch of hooey.

Garmin – Cervelo’s David Millar was recently interviewed by Bicycling magazine’s Bill Strickland. Millar is a “4” according to the list.

Millar claims that since his suspension for doping that his entire perspective on his career has changed, that now he rides simply for the joy of it.

This is a a link to the related video of the Millar statements about The List.

He and Garmin team owner, Jonathan Vaughters, both explain his “4” rating as a response to his past indiscretions.

Garmin’s Tyler Farrar ranks “3” and this is explained to me by Vaughters:

” . . . remember, its performance and blood value based. Tyler has never doped and never will.”

Those may be true and valid points. But AIGCP’s public response (remembering that AIGCP, the team’s “union”, is also lead by Vaughters) is so defensive that it makes many fans think they (AIGCP) have something to hide.

It may not be fair and it may not be true, but once you view things in that light the next logical step is to wonder if there is collusion between UCI and AIGCP in the protection of doped, or apparently doped, riders.

During the upcoming AMGEN EPO Tour of California the USADA was supposed to take over doping controls from UCI.

USADA in fact did run a three month long pre-race anti-doping program and, based upon that data, came up with a list similar in nature to the secret list published by L’Equipe.

Based on that list, USADA intended a targeted anti-doping program to be performed by them during the Tour of Cali.

UCI refused to target the most suspect riders based on its own list during the 2010 Tour de France. In order to prevent the targeting of the most suspect riders found in the USADA’s pre Tour of Cali testing program, UCI has ousted USADA from the in race testing. UCI will instead run that testing program themselves, again avoiding the most suspicious riders, just like they did during the 2010 Tour.

The Vaughters/ AIGCP response condemning that action, is at least reassuring.

Here is the “Index of Suspicion” from L’Equipe, breaking down the ratings by teams and countries.

CAS president John Coates says that the “Suspicion Index” doesn’t indicate suspicion of any rider.

Which must make The List utterly useless, explaining why a list created for the sole purpose of targeting the most suspicious riders isn’t actually used to target those riders for testing.

So what IS The List used for? Obviously it’s most useful purpose is in formulating exactly how much each rider should have to pay McQuaid for burying the inconsistencies and excessively high values of their biological passports.

I feel a little irritation with Vaughters and other team managers and owners for getting angry over this leak. Because many of them have their own histories in and around professional cycling’s culture of doping, yet they’ve always refused to reveal what they know and expose those involved.

Why was The List leaked to begin with? Because someone on the inside finally got sick of UCI’s cover ups, their favoritism of certain riders, their accepting of bribes to bury results, their lies about the absence of team run and sponsored doping programs, their collusion in the entire corrupt mafioso system.

If UCI had not been protecting suspected riders, there would have been no need for the leak. Leaking The List is someone’s response to being sick and tired of UCI corruption and protection of doping riders and the doping culture.

If guys like Vaughters, Bjarne Riis, Johan Bruyneel, Jim Ochowicz, John LeLangue and their peers would have stepped forward over the years and opened up to the authorities (even if they chose to keep the press out of it) regarding names, places, times, days and dates, doping would already be in its final death throws. It’s at least partially because of them and people like them that Pat McQuaid and UCI are even able to run their perpetual anti-doping bait and switch.

It’s hard to accept that the very guys with the most power to expose and destroy doping, can be the same guys complaining about the problems created by doping, including the leaking of The List.

Vaughters rightly points out that leaking a list like this could give offenders a heads up. But a heads up is only meaningful if there’s a serious potential for prosecution. It’s obvious from The List that such potential does not exist, so exposing The List and UCI’s refusal to pursue suspensions is just and right.

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Pirates and Good Men

Posted by bikezilla on May 11, 2011


There’s something I’ve noticed over the past few months that I find interesting and perplexing.

Fans of professional cycling are so sick of and sickened by the stream of dopers and doping enablers that they spend a lot of time looking for and hoping to find, the “good people”.

But the string of disappointments has been so long, and so compounded by the complicity of teams, managers and UCI, that it has left most of us so jaded that we exclude anyone with the slightest smudge against them.

We’ve stopped looking for “the good people of cycling” and focused on finding the perfect people.

We’ve set a standard that can only lead us to disappointment.

I’m going to regurgitate what I still find to be one of the most profound movie lines ever, from the first “Pirate of the Caribbean”.

“Now as long as you’re just hanging there, pay attention. The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man or you can’t. But pirate is in your blood, boy, so you’ll have to square with that some day. And me, for example, I can let you drown, but I can’t bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesies, savvy? So, can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not?”

We’ve forgotten that all of us have our own battling “pirate and a good man” and that the heroes we seek are going to have some portion of both, as well.

For instance:

Jonathan Vaughters.

On one hand his career as a professional cyclist was tainted by an association with doping, and he’s at least twice hinted at his personal use of PEDs. On top of that he’s never come out and named names, dates, times, places, so he seems to be protecting dopers and perpetuating professional cycling’s doping culture.

And, oh yeah, he’s not above bullshitting us when it suits his needs.

On the other he does more to promote professional cycling, to unite teams, to gain some measure of equality for them in their own governance, to restructure anti-doping controls so that they’re fair and meaningful, to promote a culture of anti-doping, than any other player in the game, and he does most of it for no remuneration at all.

But instead of balancing that and damning him where he deserves to be damned and applauding him where he deserves applause, we bitch slap his azz every chance we get.

There is not a shortage of reasons to question and berate JV, but we tend to see him as all “pirate” and totally lacking in “good man”.

In doing so we deny ourselves the very thing we’re looking for, the identification of a guy who is overall a pretty decent human being in addition to being good for professional cycling more often than not.

Or what about Paul Kimmage?

True, his passion is so often untempered that he goes overboard in his pursuit of witches. But why is he really so distained? Because he dared to question Lance Armstrong, because he saw the truth and had the guts to say so out loud, and because we were so busy worshiping Lance that we allowed him to vilify Kimmage in our minds.

And it turns out that Kimmage was right all along, yet he’s still tainted by Lance’s damnation of him.

Then there’s Greg LeMond.

Again we have a guy who saw something wrong and who had the courage to tell us about it openly, though he had nothing to gain from it and quite a bit to lose. Again we have a guy damned and tainted by Lance Armstrong’s malice against him,and we don’t seem to give a damn that AGAIN we have guy who was RIGHT.

Or how about Bill Strickland.

I can completely understand the view many hold that he wasn’t honest with us about his knowledge of Lance Arstrong’s career long love of PEDs, especially for those who disagree with my conclusion that he didn’t lie to us, but instead was misguidedly trustful.

But just like with Vaughters, Strickland isn’t damned where he deserves damning and praised where he deserves praise. Just like Vaughters he’s taken to be entirely “pirate” with no “good man” in him at all.

He isn’t seen as wrong, or stupid, or misguided, but as evil, lying and conniving.

Our standard is not merely one of goodness, but of perfection. We’re desperate to find the good men of professional cycling, but we constantly cheat ourselves because we refuse to see beyond the pirate inside of them.

No one deserves a free pass, especially no one in a position of power and influence. But we shouldn’t allow our judgments and prejudices to keep from us that thing we constantly strive to find.

The question has been asked, “How do you / we decide who’s really evil and who’s just a good guy with some unpleasant shit?”.

Well, it’s hard to set absolutes, but here are some basic guidelines.

They like meringue, or if you prefer, meringue. Right, that disgusting stuff made of egg whites and sugar.

They do not love Oreos.

They like brussel sprouts, lima beans, boiled onions, liver, biscuits.

They are my ex wife.

They do not love Dr Pepper.

They think their pie crust is as good as or better than my Nan’s.

They have names like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, Pat McQuaid, Hein Verbruggen and Patti.

They . . . never mind, too much information and this all just gets too hard to follow. But you get the basic idea.

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A Conversation With Bill Strickland:Postscript

Posted by bikezilla on May 6, 2011


Part 1, Emma O’Reilly’s Anger at Bill Strickland, Part 2, Part 3, Bill Strickland’s NPR Interview, Part 4, Part 5, Postscript

This is Part Final; The article about the articles.

But more than that, what came before this was my conversation with and interview of Bill Strickland. That ended with Part 5: The Damning Question.

This is my conversation with you, my readers.

Before I began talking to Bill Strickland I’d had a couple disappointing experiences with interviewing cycling professionals or cycling celebrities.

Jonathan Vaughters, owner of Slipstream Sports and Garmin Cervelo invited me to interview him, then blew me off (and going on 2.5 months he’s still blowing me off).

Then I was invited to interview Greg LeMond, but my interview happened to reach him just as he was preparing to take a long trip out of the country, along with his wife, Kathy, to celebrate their 30th anniversary.

That one, of course, is entirely understandable. But, damn, talk about frustration.

It was starting to feel like the Universe had set in motion this evil plot against me, where no one I contacted ever got back to me. The maintenance crew here at my apartment complex got in on it, the Realtor I wanted to talk to got in on it. Even the loan guy I tried to contact got in on it.

Then this opportunity came up and I was thinking, “Ok, great, another hotshot blowing smoke up my ass.”

I fully expected to, again, be blown off.

It’s not paranoia if they’re really trying to get me, right?

— Bill Stickland’s access to Lance Armstrong has brought him a lot of success. It’s also the originating point for a lot of the grief he endures. Because, it looks like he’s betrayed the truth and forgotten his obligations as a journalist on behalf of that access.

One thing that helped me sympathize with Bill, though it didn’t sway my opinion, is the idea of access vs no access and how when you don’t have it, it’s no big deal, but when you do have it, it quickly comes to matter.

Being close to someone big can soften your view, or your willingness to present or pursue the topic aggressively.

I have those two big (that is, big for me) interviews going (though it’s been an excruciating lesson in patience). The one with JV and the one with Greg LeMond that I’ve already mentioned. Then this interview / extended chat with Bill.

You come to like and respect them more, partially for the access, partially because you’ve gotten to see and understand more of them.

In the (planned) interview with Jonathan Vaughters there are things that I specifically wanted to ask him about, things that were the entire point of wanting to do the interview (which is about doping and his history in and around it). But once the opportunity was there . . . “Damn, if I ask this, will he tell me to get fucked?”.

I was surprised that I found myself in a debate with myself over whether or not I should be so bold regarding what I knew were very sensitive but also critically important issues. Should I ask what I really needed to ask?

Again, with the LeMond interview. Once I was able to send the questions I wanted to ask, that I thought and still think need to be asked, I wasn’t sure that I should.

In both cases I had read and researched and found out certain things that required questions. But once I had the access to ask those questions I had to push myself at times not to be softer where things were potentially contentious, ugly or unpleasant. It’s hard to be fair to both the subject and the topic.

You’ll have to be the judge as to weather or not I’m successful at that.

It’s a lot different writing about real people when you’re actually exchanging words and thoughts with them, than when you’re simply analyzing this and that about them independent of their input (as I frequently do in writing Bikezilla).

It’s easier to be courageous and “in your face” when you have nothing to lose, nothing at stake.

I first emailed Bill about our interview the Friday before Easter. I didn’t expect so much as an acknowledgement until at very least the following Monday.

But Bill got back to me that night. Not his secretary. Not his assistant. Not his media rep. Him.

He thought he would even be able to get started on our interview by Saturday. When he couldn’t he wrote me to let me know that he got tied up with other obligations, and that he’d reply to my thoughts within a couple days.

I was shocked. I was impressed. And expecting “a couple days” to drag out to a couple weeks, or even a couple months.

But he was true to his word.

That set of circumstances went a long way toward building my impression that I could trust him, and toward leaving my mind open to the possibility that he wasn’t lying about what he knew about Lance Armstrong and when he knew it.

I wasn’t even close to belief, but I felt I had reason to leave that door open.

I was even more impressed because my writing about him, and my initial conversation with him on Twitter were antagonistic, even belligerent.

He as easily could have told me to piss off. Or just ignored me entirely.

His level of courtesy, consideration, professionalism and respect by themselves reduced the level of irritation and distrust I felt toward him.

He never spoke to me as if I was just some pissant blogger (which I am) and he was an important magazine editor (which he is). Just the opposite. It was almost as if I was the important writer and I was doing him a favor by writing about him. He was that polite, considerate, respectful and available. Seriously. No exaggeration.

It was the antithesis of my experience with Jonathan Vaughters.

Bill never knew and never asked what my intent was with this interview, nor with any individual part of it. He didn’t ask or know where the narrative was going or how it would get there. He had no information until each part went up. Just like you.

Early on, Bill let me know that certain things he told me would be off the record. Some of those things were sensitive, but most of them were because he doesn’t feel that it’s right for a writer to debate his writing with his readers. It’s a quirk of his, and one I had to work with or around.

That made the writing interesting and difficult at times.

At some point during almost every part of the interview series I ended up pushing those “off limits” boundaries.

There were times when I simply leaned hard against that invisible line. There were others where I not-to-stealthily tip-toed across it.

Only once, when I knew that the ground I wanted to tread was especially sensitive and forbidden, did I write him to discuss what I wanted to do.

As a courtesy, and so he would not feel that I’d ambushed him, after publishing each part I always gave him a heads up about where I pushed things and how. But except for that once, I didn’t ask ahead of time. He never wrote and said that he wanted to see something prior to it going up. He never chastised or berated me for my choices and decisions.

That one time when I did write to discuss using “off limits” material, he responded by expressing his reluctance, but still giving me more than what I’d requested.

In every instance Bill handled things graciously, even generously.

He’d told me from the beginning that he trusted me to be fair, and he never backed away from that.

— As I was putting the parts of this series up I heard some great comments and had some interesting conversations about peoples’ thoughts on Bill.

I finally came to the realization that no matter how I objective I am, or no matter how lopsided I might instead choose to be, that people feel so strongly about Bill, about his failure to admit or realize that Lance Armstrong is a doper, or their view that he betrayed Lance, that I won’t be changing any minds in either direction.

I’m ok with that. I never wanted to tell you that you should or shouldn’t believe Bill. I wanted to give you the information. You can use and interpret it the way that best satisfies you.

But I did begin the interview series with a definite mindset: Bill was a liar and I wanted to “hear” him tell me the truth.

Really, that was the one driving force and regardless of my opinion at any specific point in the interview that never changed. I wanted one unequivocal answer. No hedging.

But, I wrote most of the series with mixed feelings. On one hand, I got my unhedged, unequivocal answer. On the other, I couldn’t use it. It was “off limits”.

You have no idea how many times I muttered “shitshitshitshitshit . . .” under my breath as I went over things with the knowledge that I couldn’t include that one all important piece of information.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Going in to the interview, I felt like Bill thought of me, and of readers in general, as fools, suckers, like he could play us and we wouldn’t notice it because we were too stupid. I resented that. A lot.

Though it was difficult to understand, to “get my head around”, as I think I mention during the interview series, I did eventually come to accept that he honestly believed, or at least that he tried and wanted to believe, that Lance had raced clean.

He wasn’t trying to cheat us, he wasn’t lying to us, he really believed.

I presented some of what convinced me already, throughout the interview, and I won’t waste time going over it again, here.

A great big part of the rest, and maybe even more of an influence, was realizing that Bill STILL believes, really in his gut believes, some things that just make no sense to me.

He still believes that Lance rode clean during his first Tour, and that even Lance’s most critical detractors believe that, too.

I believe that Lance doped from as early as 13 and that THAT, in fact, was the cause of his cancer. I also believe that it’s almost impossible for a thinking person to see it differently.

Yet, Bill does.

He also believes that Lance rode Comeback 2.0 clean.

I think Lance just knew how to beat the system and did so with microdoses of EPO and with undetectable autologous blood transfusions, and with some help form UCI (for instance, during the 2009 Tour de France, Astana was always tested last, UCI once delayed testers for 45 minutes when they were already with Astana, and Astana members frequently stalled testers). Again, it seems to me that no thinking person could possibly believe differently.

Yet again, Bill does.

— During the interview, one thing Bill never did was tell me that I was wrong. And he never said or implied that I was stupid, nor that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

He always acknowledged that my views were every bit as valid as readers who believed him, readers with opposite views, and his own.

In short, he was never defensive and he never gave me reason to be defensive or feel like I needed to guard or protect my views and opinions. That made it easier to honestly evaluate and consider his views and opinions.

— When I found myself believing him, it caused me a problem.

I began this interview with a certain intent and in a certain frame of mind. What’s more, the majority of my readers were already attuned to my way of thinking and my way of presenting things.

It would not make sense, nor would it be credible, if I were to write this series from the standpoint of belief. It just wouldn’t work.

But, accepting that he didn’t lie didn’t change that I don’t “get” how he can still believe some things. And, even in my previous angry state I had resolved to write as objectively as possible, to try to present not only my side of the debate, but Bill’s.

I wanted to do both in a way that was respectful of my subject, but that still honored the topic and that didn’t force any view or opinion down readers’ throats. I want to allow them (you) to make their own decisions and choose to believe what they would.

I decided to present the interview in an approximation of my own journey from angry and accusing to perplexed understanding and reluctant belief.

I didn’t come to accept that Bill was misguided but truthful and that Bill didn’t lie to us about what he knew, all in a breath. I couldn’t go into the writing assuming that my readers would accept it any more readily than I did. Why should they, just on my word, especially when the last thing they knew was that I was not a fan of Bill’s version of journalistic integrity or ethics?

I had been incredulous (at very least) until very deep into my conversation with Bill. So that’s how I would go about revealing everything to my readers.

It wasn’t that hard. Because my feelings were already laid out in the questions and statements of the interview. I just had to be true to them.

— If there was one great difficulty with this interview, it was the conversation style and tone.

It would have been easier to edit a straight Q & A piece, with related sections all neatly clumped together and flowing one into the other.

But the way this interview was done I had to match things up and then shuffle them around so that they would make sense.

I’ve said that I wish I could share everything with you, so that you’d get to see and evaluate all the information that I had available to me. Purely as a matter of discovery that’s true.

But from a writing perspective that was a bad idea. There’s a lot of gabby junk in there, a lot of asides and rambling, from both of us, that would make a piece this long and involved drag on mercilessly (and some of you may think that it already has).

What made it in is a majority of the most readable stuff, the most interesting bits, the most accessible relevant thoughts.

It doesn’t have the full breadth and depth of the entire exchange, but it’s a lot easier to follow and understand than if I’d posted the uncut and unedited content of all our emails.

There will always be things that I wish I was able to include, or that I wish I could have shown you in a different way. But what came out is pretty close to what I’d hoped it might be.

And of course, I’m happy, because in the end I was able to not only have, but print the equivocal statement that drove me throughout the interview.

True, it wasn’t the identical statement that I was chasing when things began, but it explains the same thing; what Bill Strickland really believed about Lance Armstrong and Armstrong’s history of doping.

I accept it to be the truth.

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