Jonathan Vaughters Talks Doping Reform
The full transcript from our exclusive interview with the Garmin-Sharp boss
When Jonathan Vaughters
published his op-ed
in the New York Times
admitting to doping as a pro cyclist, BICYCLING requested an interview hoping to learn more about why he chose to finally come forward, and what he hoped to accomplish with his admission. He declined to address his time on U.S. Postal, citing a wish to respect the ongoing USADA investigation
into alleged doping practices on the team, but was otherwise open. In a nearly two-hour conversation at his Denver home, Vaughters talked in detail about his career, his decision to dope and struggles to try to be competitive without pharmaceutical help, and how those experiences shaped his interest in the sport’s reform. This transcript has been edited for clarity and organization, but is otherwise unchanged.
I’ll start with the fairly obvious question: Why now?
Well, I think when you look back at what the reaction has been from various people who’ve decided to step forward (and admit doping), it’s been for the most part fairly negative; sometimes extremely negative. People try to place that blame in a lot of places but what stands out in my mind is the reaction of the fans. Five years ago, when someone would step forward and say ‘Yeah, I did it,’ the reaction to that individual was amazingly negative. And basically, that person in whatever capacity they might have had to improve the overall situation by being honest, they were immediately pushed aside. They never got any opportunity to help the sport to move the right direction, or even for their knowledge to have an impact on anti-doping efforts. It was immediate—they were basically neutered from any potential movement. That is obviously very dissuasive to coming forward and talking about what happened. I think basically, just as it took all the way until 2008 until I felt the time was right, that the sport was ready to have a team that was outspoken about anti-doping—that that wouldn’t have worked in 2004, or in 1996 but it did in 2008—and so it took until now for an admission to have a positive impact on the sport as opposed to a negative.
Did that negative reaction come just from fans or from others? I recall a fair bit of negative reaction from institutions as well.
That’s hard to say. You’d have to ask the individuals (who admitted) what their experiences were, but from my observation as a spectator to those events, those guys were called names and mocked by a lot of different people. It was coming from all angles.
One of my first experiences with that was the reaction to Paul Kimmage, when Verbruggen said it was simply sour grapes from guys who couldn’t cut it anymore.
Yes—I’m first to say that without—let’s start with Kimmage, and I’m sure there was someone before that, but that without Kimmage, without Frankie [Andreu]
, without Floyd [Landis]
, Tyler [Hamilton]
, without Jorg Jaksche, [Bjarne] Riis, you can go on and on, without all these people, the op-ed I wrote and the impact I feel like it’s having, I don’t know if that would be possible without those people. In fact, I’d say it probably wasn’t. I feel like the only reason, in a roundabout way, everything that Floyd went through and the scandal of [Operación] Puerto, like those two things, that whole three-year period, the pressure that put the sport under to clean up and put in new measures and the scrutiny it was under, that was the soil that allowed [Garmin’s] Ryder [Hesjedal] to win the Giro d’Italia clean. To me it’s not separable. If you have no Puerto, you have no Floyd Landis scandal, can you win the 2012 Giro clean? I don’t think so.
Because what else would force the sport to change?