11 August 2012

Recommended Reading: Jonathan Vaughters

How to Get Doping Out of Sports By Jonathan Vaughters in The New York Times Sunday Review, The Opinion Pages
"Almost every athlete I’ve met who has doped will say they did it only because they wanted a level playing field." ..."We put so much emotion into marketing and idolizing athletes, let’s put that same zeal into giving them what they really want: the ability to live their dreams without compromising their morals." - Jonathan Vaughters.
I am not shocked by reading Jonathan Vaughters opinion in The New York Times, but I sure appreciate the honesty and not only admitting there is a problem, but taking action to do something about it. I am somewhat curious about the timing, why now, perhaps he chose to step up in public before others made him do so, but it will likely make sense looking back as more news hits the headlines. 
Jonathan signing an autograph at the Team Presentation in November  Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com
I saw Jonathan in April in Brugge on the morning of the 2012 Tour of Flanders, he was deep in converstaion about race strategy. Every time I see him at races it is so evident that he loves this sport and his new role in it.
Jonathan Vaughters  Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com
This is how Jonathan lives his life now. In the midst of some of the biggest most knowledgeable staff and fans of cycling in the world. Here he is in Belgium outside his Garmin team bus before the start of the Tour of Flanders.
Jonathan (middle left) looking into the camera at t'Zand, Brugge, Belgium  Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com
He works tirelessly coordinating and planning
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
This is usually how the fans see Jonathan - heading down the road... probably talking on his race radio.
Jonathan behind the wheel of his team car   Photo by Karen at PedalDancer.com
Related post : There are some things I don't like By Pedal Dancer, July 28, 2012. 

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."