A rebuttal to Steve Tilford’s hatchet job on Vaughters.
Twisted Spoke doesn’t usually weigh in on what other bloggers have to say. However, we’re making an exception today because two of the most well-read bloggers have taken hard, negative shots at Garmin-Sharp boss Jonathan Vaughters for his doping admission piece in the New York Times.
We’re talking about former Cervelo co-founder (and former Garmin sponsor) Gerard Vroomen and mountain biker slash blogger Steve Tilford. We’ll respond to Vroomen tomorrow but first Mr. Tilford.
Wow, this guy is a “crabby patty” to use the Sponge Bob cartoon descriptor. He lashes into Vaughters and we think he went too far, judges too harshly and missed some obvious and critical points.
First, Tilford starts his blog post by quibbling about numbers. He thinks the performance bump for doping is greater than the 2% Vaughters stated and that riding 20,000 miles for 10 years just to be fit enough to ride the Tour de France is also inaccurate.
Our take: so what? You want 3-4%, great, you want more or less mileage, pick a number. Both Tilford (and Vroomen) make the mistake of thinking Vaughters wrote his story for a highly knowledgable cycling audience like themselves. He didn’t. That wasn’t remotely his intention.
He’s writing for a general audience, a much wider group that isn’t focused or interested in numerical specifics. He’s trying to explain to the big world outside cycling his own personal experience with doping and why in more general terms we have to be vigilant and aggressive in our anti-doping efforts so young riders don’t have to face the decision to dope or not. Vaughters isn’t writing a policy paper for cycling wonks.
Next up Tilford gets annoyed and crabby about whether the sport of cycling is or isn’t cleaner now. He disagrees with Vaughters that “the sport is clean enough to win races clean.” Well, I disagree with his disagreement. This season Ryder Hesjedal wins the Giro d’Italia and Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France. Last year a Garmin domestique wins Paris-Roubaix. I could cite more support but do I really need more than that? There’s no question smart riders can still manipulate their biological passports but if Tilford truly believes the passport is a “joke” then Hesjedal and Wiggins never make the podium.
Tilford also seems really angry that Jonathan Vaughters got a second chance. To quote the howling Tilford: “he has this platform and big voice because, according to him, he ‘made the wrong decision.’” Wow, that’s quite a bitter indictment.
I believe people deserve second chances. Human beings make mistakes, “nice” people, bad people, criminals, even bloggers. Every religion is based on forgiveness and most people are generally positive — we all have weakness, most of us try to improve and we’re willing to give others a second chance and the benefit of the doubt.
Tilford argues that Vaughters would never be running a big ProTour team like Garmin if he hadn’t first doped his way to some high profile results and success. Yup, fame opens doors, always has, always will. Disillusioned and sick of the doping practices, Vaughters quit the sport and started a real estate company in Colorado. A few years later he starts a small development team funded in large part by his real estate money. Nobody handed Vaughters a team nor did he ask for one: he built his own. He began pretty far down the ladder and with young riders because he wanted to change the doping dynamic.
That brings us to our final point of difference with Tilford. Not only does he believe that Vaughters is both influential and running Garmin because he got big results doping, he thinks Vaughters is doing a poor job with his second chance. “So now he gets a 2nd chance. For me, he’s not doing so well with it so far, in my opinion,” was how Tilford put it.
That opinion strikes me as so profoundly stupid and wrongheaded I have steam shooting out my ears. Name one person in the last five years who has done more to promote clean cycling than Vaughters? Name one person who runs a cleaner team with a stronger anti-doping statement than Vaughters? Name anybody that has tried harder to implement more testing, better testing, with more oversight? Name anybody who has created a more inspirational — and successful — environment for riders who want to win at the highest level and ride clean? And by that I mean somebody with the power and position and respect to actually steer the sport in a better direction?
We will agree with Tilford on one point — Riccardo Ricco didn’t dope because he wanted “a level playing field.” Ricco is a seriously disturbed and deranged guy with way more problems that the desperate need to win races by any means necessary. I side with Vaughters in his belief that the majority of riders simply want a fair shot at winning races without resorting to doping.
Jonathan Vaughters is one of the few visionaries in the sport of professional cycling. In our opinion, he’s done more to try to rescue cycling for the dark doping years and the corruption and incompetence of the UCI than anyone else. You can also throw is the facts that he’s articulate, funny and a swell dresser.
It’s not something I generally do but I have to call bullshit on Steve Tilford.