|Jonathan signing an autograph at the Team Presentation in November Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com|
|Jonathan Vaughters Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com|
|Jonathan (middle left) looking into the camera at t'Zand, Brugge, Belgium Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com|
|Jonathan setting up at a stage start at the 2012 Tour of California Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com|
|Jonathan Vaughters, Chief Executive of Slipstream Sports (Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda) Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com|
|Jonathan behind the wheel of his team car Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com|
I went on a bike ride and really started thinking about Jonathan's opinion, whatever happens in coming months by statements made by American cyclists about actions taken in the past, we still have the future to be concerned with.
I would like to say as a follow up to the post I wrote 2 weeks ago (link above) the excuse of a level playing field mentioned by Jonathan Vaughters in his opinion, basically translates to "I did it because everyone else did." Which is an excuse most of us should have learned doesn't fly by grade school. Shame on you if you find yourself reciting the Vaughters plea of a "level playing field". Cheaters are not concerned with equality and fairness, they are concerned with self. I see the problem as a lack of punishment versus reward. Would Jonathan Vaughters be where is is today if he had chosen not to dope?
Do you think the 2-year ban Alexandre Vinokourov received really deterred him or taught him a lesson? His team was waiting for him, maybe the supply lines were still in place, maybe he came back a changed man, I don't know, but he came right back into the sport as if nothing had happened and just took home a gold medal in the Olympics. Ka-ching. If Vaughters had not doped, he never would have made it on those first teams, onto the US Postal team, or had the opportunity to be an executive at Slipstream Sports. Taking drugs seemed a small price to pay for a lifetime of being able to be active in the sport.
If a young athlete can get on a team, can get to a Grand Tour, can make a name for themselves, they have the opportunity to receive endorsements, become management, or at least open a bike shop in their home town and remain in the sport they love so much. If they do not dope, they might not progress. They face finding an outlet in a local bike club or riding with their friends, and must find another way to support their families. At this point in the sport, doping still has high rewards for a young rider, even though the testing is much tighter. Still what is a 2-year ban to a young man who has his entire life ahead of him. Unless he is facing a possible life ban for doping.
This heavy-handed punishment comes with risk, what if the athlete is not personally guilty, what if they are innocent and are banned for life? Mistakes happen. Unfortunately so many riders have lied in the past, I'm not sure who to believe. There are some riders who have tugged on my heart-strings, I didn't like seeing Alberto Contador found guilty, or Frank Schleck. But when athletes like Tyler Hamilton are still out there making income off of cycling even after he denied it, accused others, got others into doping, finally admitted to it and had his awards stripped from him. The point is we never would have heard of Tyler Hamilton if he hadn't doped, he never would have been given the opportunities he was afforded.
Those opportunities are enormous, I think they should go to athletes who deserve to make their name in cycling. There are plenty of young men and women who have dreams just like Jonathan Vaughters did who deserve a fair chance in a fair field. Not a "level field."