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Issue 27: Snitches, Scapegoats, and Vaughters

Nathan Wright

Pride and greed.

I was happy when Tom Danielson tested positive for testosterone. Actually, I was ecstatic and a glass of wine was raised. Tom Danielson is the worst kind of cheater, one that doesn’t learn, continues to lie, and fails to take responsibility for his actions. To be clear, none of the former US Postal Service and Discovery Channel riders that testified against Lance Armstrong are victims, nor did they do it for redemption. They didn’t testify for the good of the sport or to absolve their sins. They did it to save themselves. This makes them snitches. Snitches that used Armstrong as a scapegoat for their misdeeds. I am no fan of Armstrong, but he never held a gun to their heads, or tied them down and forced them to use performance enhancing drugs. Everyone that has worked for, or with unethical people, always had a choice. They choose to take drugs, they chose to sign the six-figure contracts, they chose to board Armstrong’s private jet, and they chose to attend the fancy parties. They chose to ride Armstrong’s coattails to fame and fortune.

While it’s easy to blame someone who did so much damage, Armstrong was not alone and there are a lot of companies and individuals that made millions on what they knew was a lie. A perfect example is the case of Stephanie McIlvain, Armstrong’s liaison to Oakley. She lied under oath about Armstrong’s admission of using PEDs while undergoing cancer treatment in fear of her and her husband losing their jobs at the eyewear company. Another example is Chris Carmichael; a man that built his entire business on the lie that he trained Lance Armstrong. For years Carmichael sat next to Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, and Bob Roll on OLN and spun the lie of Armstrong’s new pedaling technique, weight loss and incredible power. If Carmichael had been Armstrong’s coach, with access to his physiological data, he would have known Armstrong’s performance was chemically enhanced. This leaves only two conclusions, Carmichael either lied or he is stupid. These are only two examples of the vast network of corporations and individuals that surrounded and profited from Armstrong. Trek, Anheuser-Busch, FRS, Honey Stinger, Easton-Bell and Nike were all major Armstrong sponsors and still reap the benefits of their increase in market share during the Armstrong era.

In addition to the network of corporations that developed around Armstrong, riders looking to get a piece of the spotlight, and money also formed. The cost of being in the inner circle was high, usually requiring the use of performance enhancing drugs, as well as loyalty to Armstrong. These riders, including Tom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie all signed up willingly. They did the same drugs as Armstrong, and told the same lies, but never suffered the consequences because they hid behind the hypocrisy of Jonathan Vaughters until they needed to save themselves.

Jonathan Vaughters is cut from the same cloth as the corporations, managers and riders that perpetuated and profited from the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong. Vaughters’ hypocrisy goes all the back way to when he raced with Armstrong on the U.S. Postal Service team in 1998 and 1999. Vaughters has alluded to his indiscretions with performance enhancing drugs during this period. Despite this, he used his drug-enhanced results to sign a well paying contract with Credit Agricole. Simply put, Jonathan Vaughters profited from using performance enhancing drugs. Perhaps not to the extent of Armstrong and others, but theft is theft. Once at Credit Agricole, Vaughters failed to reproduce his results from his time at the U.S. Postal Service team. Whether Vaughters chose to ride clean or was forced to by Credit Agricole management, we will never know. The end result was half way through the 2002 season Vaughters left the team and returned to the States.

In 2003, Vaughters raced for Prime Alliance before retiring at the end of the season. During this time he, founded the 5280/Subaru development team, a program that would morph into the TIAA-CREF continental team. The team was touted as developing the next batch of American cyclists. That was until Doug Ellis started writing the checks. With money to spend, the concept of developing talent was pushed aside and Vaughters created a haven for dopers. David Millar, David Zabriske, Christian Vande Velde, Tom Danielson, and others signed on to be part of the cleanest team in cycling.

If Vaughters really wanted to make a difference in cycling and help clean up the sport this would have been the moment to do it. He could’ve come clean about past misdeeds and started from scratch. Instead, Vaughters honored the Omerta and continued to cash checks with a team of riders whose palmeres was build on drug-fueled results. Again, Vaughters profited from the use of performance enhancing drugs. This time he did it while marketing a group of dopers as clean. As he touted their cleanliness, he continued to honor the Omerta of the peloton, fortifying the safe haven for him, and others to continue to make a good living without being held responsible for their previous actions.

In his claims of a running a clean program, Vaughters stated on several occasions that if any of his riders ever tested positive that both he and Doug Ellis would shut down the team and leave cycling. After Tom Danielson tested positive it took less than 48 hours for Vaughters to back track and announce via Twitter that he, Doug Ellis and the team would continue. Just as when he took drugs at US Postal, just as when he when took money from Credit Agricole based on fraudulent results, just as when he hired dopers as opposed to clean riders, Jonathan Vaughters again sold out cycling.

Armstrong’s response to Vaughters via Twitter was short and stinging, pointing out that the team and perhaps cycling would be better off without him. The irony of Armstrong and Vaughters Twitter exchange is that they are more alike than either would want to admit, and they are both guilty of the same sins: pride and greed.

@Vaughters those good people would be better off without you.

Ed. note: After a good run of 42 issues, our magazine app is no longer available, but we’ve archived the content here for Medium members.