Garmin-Sharp boss who gave evidence against Lance Armstrong says Sky's approach an incentive to lie...

Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters, one of the former US Postal Service riders who gave evidence against Lance Armstrong, has said that Dave Brailsford and Team Sky’s decision to have staff and riders sign a pledge to say they have no connection to doping won’t work.

Vaughters, aged 39, is among those who have called for a process of ‘truth and reconciliation’ to be put in motion as cycling continues to come to terms with the fallout from the US Postal scandal, but believes that Sky’s insistence on having those on its payroll sign a declaration will encourage people to lie.

“It’s just not the correct course for them to try and change history,” he told the Telegraph. “They would be better served by realising that people of that generation do have a lot to commit and contribute.

“Dave [Brailsford] has stepped into a sport that has 100 years of history and those 100 years sadly include some generations when the testing was not on a par with the doping and that the rules were unable to be enforced properly, because the science didn’t exist to do that. The drugs were so effective that the whole dynamic of the peloton was being manipulated.

“It’s just so difficult to ever figure out if a person signing the paper is telling the truth or not and it runs the risk of forcing people into a situation where they have to lie.

“You are given a piece of paper and told to sign and if we find out you were lying, then you are sacked. But if you don’t sign it you are sacked as well. You are pushing people towards dishonesty. I appreciate the idealism but it just feels like it is twisting a little bit more towards forcing people to be dishonest.”

As Bradley Wiggins, fourth in the Tour de France in 2009 under Vaughters, headed towards overall victory in the race this summer, Sky came under severe criticism because of its decision to employ former Rabobank doctor Geert Leinders on a freelance basis.

Sky revealed earlier this month that following an internal investigation, it will not be using his services again, although it was certain he had done nothing untoward during his time with the team.

While the team was founded on a strict zero tolerance attitude towards doping, one that still applies to its riders, Brailsford has in the past said that he realised that it was in effect to staff a professional cycling team with support personnel free from the taint of doping.

Michael Barry, now retired and the only Sky rider to have provided evidence to the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) in the Armstrong case, admitted to doping in his affidavit to the agency.

As our article earlier this week regarding the team’s requirement to have riders and staff sign that pledge outlines, sports director Sean Yates, race coach Bobby Julich and rider Mick Rogers are the men at Sky upon whom most suspicion falls in the aftermath of USADA’s Reasoned Decision in the Armstrong case.

Besides Vaughters, Garmin-Sharp riders Tom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie all gave testimony in the Armstrong case and have received six-month bans. While the team adopts a strict doping-free approach, that does not preclude those with a doping history from riding for it provided they have pledged to have put that behind them, the prime example being David Millar.

“Sky have a great organisation,” continued Vaughters, “they have great people in that organisation that are committed to clean racing, but do some of those people potentially have a history? Of course, but that is the history of the sport. It isn’t unique to the people Sky have hired.

“You cannot change history but you can change the direction forward and you can use the people who have encountered that history and probably didn’t really like that history.

"By just throwing some of them to the side, you are eliminating the knowledge base of how to prevent doping, you are completely pushing it to the side, eliminating all of that experience and the emotion of people who had to live through a doping era.

“I am not comfortable with my own past conduct, I am very regretful for it and it hasn’t been a fun thing to explain to my family, but I can’t change it,” he added.

“I can’t do anything about it but I can have a very large and meaningful impact on the lives of riders who never had to dope.

“I can bring guys like our young rider Andrew Talansky into an environment when they are never going to have the decision placed in front of them – and one of the biggest reasons for that is that they have got people like myself and David Millar who lived through a nasty time and are telling them and showing them the correct way, mentoring them.

"No rider should ever have to go through that, it is just horrible.”

“Management has to do everything they possibly can to prevent that from occurring. That is their responsibility. I just don’t see that team management’s responsibility is to chase ghosts from the past.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.


lushmiester [196 posts] 5 years ago

I am not convinced by Vaughters argument that you need a thief to catch a thief.

However, he does have a point regarding honesty as being the key to the way forward, we do not have to condone peoples past actions we do not have to accept their excuses but we do need to know what went on, why it went on and how it was facilitated if structures are to be created that are not fertile grounds for further corruption of the sporting ideal.

Sky are no more responsible for the past actions of its employees when they raced than road cc is for my being useless at fantasy cycling. However, Sky unlike road cc and myself is dealing with the real world not fantacy. In the real world people are (thankfully) imperfect, it is the effort and willingness to fight by legitimate means that creates movement towards perfection and that marks a person as great or not. This human journey is often advanced by small steps (a kind of marginal gain)the first is to be honest about the past, to be wise enough not to repeat one's mistakes and to work to help others travel the honest road. The answer no matter how tempting is not broad sweeping pledges signed put on file and only to be hauled out when something goes wrong, this does not sign someone up to an ethic which put simply is to Race Clean to Win Clean.

I respect, admire and support Dave Brailsfords and Vaughters determination to have a clean sport and I am a little annoyed at Vaughters for his slightly 'omerta' like sentiments regarding Dave Brailsfords lack of past connection with cycling or appreciation of the history of cycling. Having said that I would hope and expect that both men can appreciate merits in each others arguments and approach and borrow from the other when needed. At the risk of sounding arrogant they both have contributions to make. Ego has a place in sport but it needs to be tempered with the understanding that we are all part of a community and that our success originates from the community as well as ourselves.

hippy69 [10 posts] 5 years ago

As Lushmeister suggests sky's policy may only promote more secrecy. There are ex riders, working as coaches and DS today that are suspected of being involved in doping in many teams, including Sky! If they are clear and honest about their own history and clearly dedicated to ensuring cycling continues to ride clean, is it not better to allow their stories and experience to educate the current generation of riders on why they felt the need or pressure to dope.

To agree with vaughters, it seems stupid to lose their racing knowledge if they feel they cannot or will not sign on the dotted line. Past doping can never be condoned, but cycling needs to accept the scale of riders involvement and the systems and structures used to cheat. Promoting honesty of for past misdemenours can only help in understanding why doping became so widespread. We need more openness no more secrecy.

mikeprytherch [223 posts] 5 years ago

Its all a witch hunt now, should one of the MP's who fiddled their expenses be allowed to be an MP again, does the money that Armstrong raised for LiveStrong justify anything that has gone on ? we have different views.

What I hope everybody agrees with is this whole sorry situation needs putting to bed and quickly, its just damaging our sport.

Lets throw away the record books for the past 20 years or so, its clear that no stage race could of been won without drugs, they all cheated.

We need an amnesty now, Sky's stance is stupid and past dopers will lie, would you lie to keep your job ?.

So lets have an amnesty, lets set-up something which helps catch any cheat and move on, I'm getting fed up of this now.