August 15, 2012
I’ve become entangled in the Vaughters vs Millar debate. You know, as in Vaughters sat on his doping demons whilst hypocritically setting up a “clean team”. Which ironically gave Dave Millar a ride, too. Dave, the guy who sat on his demons for a shorter period of time and is thus “right” or “better” or perhaps a saint, even. OK, not a saint, but he’s definitely, apparently, a better man than Vaughters, who – as I said – sat on it and only confessed when pushed into it. One has honour intact, the other is to be despised. Well that’s social media at work, and even understandable in a sense. But life is never that simple, is it?
In many ways we truly have to “walk a mile in their shoes” before we can see inside their personal situations. Yes, on the face of it their stories are not dissimilar. But let’s look deeper. I’ll contract it somewhat as you can read the gory details with a quick search, anyway, or simply follow the links I provide at the end.
- Both Millar and Vaughters have confessed to doping, publicly and very clearly. Both have demonstrated remorse, regret and a strong belief to set things right
- Both felt pressured to perform, both by their own competitiveness and by external arguments that they needed to “keep up”
- Vaughters, by his own admission buried his guilt yet turned it into a positive force as well, exorcising his demons in building a “clean team”. He even hired Millar and other reformed dopers
- Millar had the higher profile as World Road TT champ but Vaughters was no slouch, either. He had wins, big wins, both at US national and international level. Neither was just a domestique
- Vaughters, with a lower profile as initially a junior member of USPS and later as one of several good lead riders at Credit Agricole dodged most of the mud throughout his career
- Millar was not so lucky in being in the media hot seat as a World Champion TTer, prologue rider and an Anglo member of a French team under intense doping speculation and police scrutiny
- Neither rider tested positive to doping of any sort in their careers (that I am aware of, anyway!)
- Both confessed publicly after being interviewed by the authorities
- However the timing and situation of their confessions is very different
- Millar has stated that he felt violated and humiliated as he was removed by French police from a public restaurant, searched and relieved of his possessions before being questioned and his apartment turned-over. He was locked in prsion cell. He was at that time an active professional bike racer
- Millar rode for Cofidis, a team under the pressure of media speculation, accusations and police investigations
- Vaughters, however, did not face such scrutiny during his riding career. He has claimed publically that his first pro team was built on clean riding and they were smashed. His second, the USPS team, was spectacularly successful. And whilst speculation existed around that team and its leader, and has grown since, he wasn’t considered a key element, nor publicly humiliated in the way Millar suffered. Indeed Vaughters left USPS and joined a team generally considered “clean”, Credit Agricole. Whilst there Vaughters famously suffered verbal abuse from an unnamed “famous rider” for he and his team refusing to take cortisone (a banned substance) for a wasp sting (as reported in this interview by Anthony Tan of Cyclingnews)
- Vaughters was subsequently interviewed by the US FDA much later, in his own country, with other former USPS team members. He was no longer an active bike racer, rather he was an experienced and well-respected team manager
- Millar denied his doping actions at first, only later confessing
- Vaughters is believed to have cooperated with the US FDA investigators when questioned and whilst we do not yet know exactly what was said, he has subsequently confessed to doping in his recent NYT article
- Millar sat on his demons for a shorter period of time, but he came under pressure almost immediately without the benefit of team and peer support. His team was collapsing under pressure, and he was an Anglo Scot in a French team. He denied, then he confessed. His testimony was initally personal and incriminated just himself, however he subsequently, in media interviews, questioned the team and its staff in supporting doping practices. He served out his suspension and returned to racing
- Vaughters sat on his demons for years, ended his career without doping drama and created a new “clean” career as a team owner and manager. In this he stands accused of long-running hypocrisy but it’s worth noting that unlike Millar he was not a world champ, nor a foreign rider in a French team under intense attack; although his later riding career with Credit Agricole must have given him some pause for thought. In contrast also Vaughters was a US rider on a US-team, and a champion team at that, with a champion rider as “the boss” – one Lance Armstrong. The team was close-knit and tight behind their leader, with any suspicion or allegation firmly denied and stamped out. Dissent was met with fierce rebuttal (check out Frankie Andreu‘s allegations for example)
- So whilst Millar met intense pressure early on and met it with little peer support, Vaughters faced no such immediate pressure to confess. Rather he (allegedly, I hasten to add) faced pressure to stay mute as a party to alleged conspiracy. A conspiracy of such size – allegedly - that it involves literally millions of dollars and multiple Tour de France wins. Only when the FDA investigators gave him the opportunity to tell all as part of a larger investigation, importantly under oath, did he apparently (as we don’t know yet what he testified) come clean
- So where Millar was put in a position to confess – or deny – relatively early, Vaughters had no such opportunity. Indeed his early confession would most likely have met the same robust public derision as met all of the others (such as Andreu, Landis and Hamilton) who have made public allegations about the alleged USPS team conspiracy.
To my mind whilst both men have much in common as dopers, racers and confessors, each had to live their own lives their own way. We cannot therefore say that Millar did the “right thing” and Vaughters the “wrong”, as the detail of their situations were quite different. Millar denied more vehemently, yet confessed anyway. But he was on his own, a Maltese-born Scottish Anglo world champion in a French team. Vaughters faced little such challenge during his racing career but probably felt massive ongoing peer pressure to stand strong with both the old team and the old boss. We can’t underestimate the power of any tightly-drilled team to keep a lid on the dirty washing. Yes, it took an investigation to get his apparent confession, but he wasn’t banged up in a French prison cell either. He now had the opportunity – like others in similar positions – to calmly air the dirt that he had sadly lived with. Allegedly and apparently, I stress, as we still don’t know what transpired in that FDA case, nor the explicit detail of the other apparent evidence collected by USADA against the alleged USPS “conspirators”.
So there, in a nutshell, is it. Well, that’s never “it”, is it? We don’t really know the ins and outs of what really transpired in these people’s lives. We are just going by public knowledge and a bit of guesswork, coupled with speculation and gossip. What did they really feel, what did they actually think? We just don’t know.
Want to read more?
Dopage du Jour
So why write and publish this piece now? It could just be his time. Or, more speculatively he wants to clear the air before bigger news hits the press. He has hinted at it in the past, and written pieces that have touched upon the issue. And he has been as steadfastly anti-doping as he has been refreshingly open to “reformed” dopers. He has given people a second chance. And now, in part, we know why.
They humiliated me and were critiquing my lifestyle, using a classic good cop, bad cop thing. It was psychological warfare. The bad cop literally hated me. He was saying: ‘You’re not a good person – we know that.’ He said: ‘You take three paces and I will bring you down like you’re resisting arrest.’ It was deliberate. I felt completely violated.”
The news agency AP has reported that George Hincapie (BMC) has informed the FDA that he witnessed Lance Armstrong using performance enhancing drugs. The claims come as part of an investigative report by 60 Minutes which also broke the news of Tyler Hamilton’s confession for doping and several similar allegations against Lance Armstrong. Armstrong has denied all accusations levelled against him by Hamilton. Hincapie rode in the US Postal colours from 1997 to 2004 with Armstrong, and was a teammate of Armstrong in each of his seven Tour de France victories.
Tyler Hamilton, a former teammate of Lance Armstrong has claimed that the seven time Tour de France winner used performance enhancing drugs, including EPO and testosterone during several of his Tour wins.
Another former Armstrong teammate, also a witness in the federal investigation, is Frankie Andreu. He tells “60 minutes” he took banned substances because lesser riders he believed were doping passed him by. “Training alone wasn’t doing it and I think that’s how…many of the other riders during that era felt, I mean, you kind of didn’t have a choice,” said Andreu.
In 2006, Andreu and his wife Betsy testified that Lance Armstrong told cancer doctors in their presence in 1996 he had doped with EPO (Erythropoietin), growth hormone and steroids. The Andreus’ testimony was intended to remain sealed in court documents and is among thousands of pages of documents related to litigation between Armstrong and a Texas-based company that was attempting to withhold a $5-million bonus. Armstrong swore under oath it didn’t happen. Frankie Andreu never offered information to media sources on the topic until court documents were released. He then stood by his testimony when giving interviews.
Andreu was fired as Team Director for the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team on July 25, 2006. Although the team owner, Sean Tucker, refused to give a reason for the firing, it coincided with the controversy surrounding Andreu at the time. Andreu has stated that he had everything to lose, including his job, by standing by his testimony, but felt that he should not be forced to deny his version of events.
Some 15 years later, on the eve of the 2008 Tour de France, his first outing at the race as general manager of what was then Team Garmin-Chipotle, considered by many to be the staunchest anti-doping crew on the block, he told Paul Kimmage from the London Sunday Times: “He [Nunes] was out to conquer doping… Well, I don’t think ’96 was a really great time to do that.
“My teammates thought it was absolutely ludicrous that we didn’t dope on this team. We got made fun of, quite frankly, by some of the other riders. Mentally, the saving grace for me was that I still had nothing better to do with my life. I was the infinite optimist. ‘I’m going to improve. Things will get better. They will soon develop a test for EPO’.”
He would have to wait; it wasn’t until the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney that a urine test to detect EPO became available
his win atop the Ventoux in ’99 was extraordinary – “massive”, he says. “I felt okay. I wasn’t ecstatic,” he demurred. “Well, for sure, it was the best form of my life as a bike rider, but I wasn’t… I was just sort of… I will leave it at this; I wasn’t overly pleased with that victory. It was interesting to me. It answered a lot of questions. But it wasn’t the most ecstatic moment of my life by any means.”
an incident with an unnamed though “famous rider” the morning following his decision to abandon: “Poor Jonathan and his stupid little team,” the rider spat. “What the f*** are you like? If you were on my team this would have been taken care of, but now you are not going to finish the Tour de France because of a wasp sting.”
Said Vaughters: “I thought, ‘F***! Here I am, on this team that is really trying to stick by the books and this guy is making fun of us for playing by the rules’. My heart just left me after that. It just made me sad, just irrevocably sad. I raced [the following year] in 2002 but that was the moment that effectively ended my career. Phew! I was done. I didn’t want to race any more. It just didn’t seem to matter to me after that.”)