Garmin bashing. Is there a valid point?

 

JV at TDF. photo twisted spoke

 

Four must be worse than three, some kind of tipping point in the blogosphere.

When Garmin-Sharp riders Tom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie admitted their past US Postal doping transgressions to the US Anti-Doping Agency, there were some howls of disgust but it didn’t reach the fever pitch caused by number four, Ryder Hesjedal.

Maybe it’s a Canadian thing?

Read the cycling forums and a vocal sub-section of fans seem to think Jonathan Vaughters is no better than Lance Armstrong, a cynic and ex-doper running a halfway house for former dopers while telling the big lie of clean cycling.

Ain’t it sad that the world is just never perfect and human beings continue to exhibit human failings? When will we reach that wonderful place where nobody ever makes a mistake and tells even the smallest lie? Don’t think I’ll live to see that.

It’s a gray world of compromise and the good people try to make up for past mistakes while the bad people intentionally keep making them. I put Mr Vaughters and four Garmin-Sharp riders in the good category.

How weary Vaughters must be of explaining that the entire culture was rotten from the UCI on down. That there was very little alternative to doping for a driven athlete with a dream. Very few of us have the moral integrity and strength to say no when the majority of the culture says yes. How many Bassoons were there in the pro peloton? 90% of the critics who rail at Vaughters and Garmin would never have possessed the courage to say no.

The Garmin bashing reminds me of a business analogy. I’ve had the good fortune to freelance for a company named IDEO, one of the best innovation companies in the world. They are filled with visionaries of every kind and their mission is to change the world through great design and creative problem solving.

That doesn’t mean that they always succeed. IDEO has some big corporate clients that don’t always listen or follow the vision. They have some conservative clients with deep pockets who pay the bills that allow IDEO the freedom and funding to put resources against other, better possibilities for positive change.

What I’m saying is two things: like Garmin and pro cycling, IDEO functions in a prescribed world of realities and two, while they don’t always astound with their brilliance, they aim high and the goal never changes — they believe they can make the world a better place.

Garmin-Sharp has made pro cycling a far better safer, cleaner, more visionary place and anybody that doesn’t get that is a colossal and clueless fool.

No team has a stricter anti-doping policy than Garmin. No team pushed harder for a “No Needles” Policy. No team consistently puts clean cycling at the front of their agenda. This is what’s happening now, not ten years ago. Vaughters continues to believe that people deserve second chances — as long as they commit and stay clean.

Do they have some older riders who made bad choices in the past? Like every major team, that answer is, yes, of course. Is Vaughters and his team taking a huge PR hit right now. You bet.

Pro cycling’s past is messy and the transition is ugly, too. We’re getting there — new UCI president, young riders like Joe Dombrowski at Sky and Andrew Talansky at Garmin. That’s the new generation and shortly all those riders from the dark years will be gone.

In the meantime, a sense of perspective might be a true sign of intelligence.

 

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  • http://www.iwearspandex.com/home Brian Stephens

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that there are cycling fans out there who don’t understand that Garmin is probably the cleanest team out there, but I’m surprised. Once I learned that Hesjedal’s doping was 10 years ago, I stopped listening because it doesn’t have a bearing on today or Garmin. He just falls into the pile of past dopers. So what? Don’t get me wrong, it’s still valid to learn about the prior doping and clean out the skeletons, but the fans need to show some understanding of perspective.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Brian, perspective is always in such short supply, isn’t it? Go Garmin!!!!

  • Matt Runge

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. My feelings about the Hesjedal “revelation” are mixed, but I feel similarly about JV and the Garmin project. That said, after reading the comments on Steve Tilford’s post about the subject, I get the concerns of a number of pros and ex-pros, who lost money and sponsorship opportunities to folks who were doping.

    I hope that this is very much a period of hashing out the past while the sport develops a new direction for the future. Hopefully, it will be more like the American Revolution than the French one . . . or maybe I should read some other history.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Matt, history is ugly ain’t it? Yes, I hear you on reading some of the rider comments on Tilford’s blog. I got a better sense of their outrage and how they had personally suffered. We’d all be bitter for life if someone who cheated robbed us of a place representing out county in the Olympic Games. That’s a terrible thing and I’m sure Ryder will have to live with that painful knowledge for a long, long time.

  • Jonathan Matz

    I’m not shocked that Ryder doped, and I don’t consider it evidence that Vaughters and his team are frauds. It’s the way we’ve learned about the old mistakes of Garmin team members that is making many – or me at least – question their credibility.

    I get – and I think most fans get – that it’s not an oxymoron for the “cleanest team in the peloton” to feature some very prominent riders who themselves are ex-dopers. In a way, that just makes their message more believable, realistic and powerful; just like ex-gangbangers can be the most persuasive and powerful anti-gang advocates, so can a rider who succumbed to the pressure to dope give a young hopeful the most truthful advice on how to avoid that same temptation.

    Ryder doped, he regretted it, learned from his mistakes, and went to a team where not only would he not feel the same pressure to dope, everything in the club’s culture would steer him away from it. Great. We shouldn’t have to learn that through a reluctant press release only after Michael Rasmussen spills the beans. If Vaughters and Garmin want to preserve their reputation for clean cycling, they’ll be proactive and release, in one fell swoop, a full accounting of all the doping committed in the past by anyone involved in the team. This drip-drip of revelations from USADA and Rasmussen just creates the impression that Garmin’s hiding something.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      I like your gangbangers analogy and it’s a correct one. It is a shame that the image of the cleanest team in bike racing gets taken down by a true nut-ball like Rasmussen when Garmin could have gotten out front of the story. Even JV makes a few mistakes once in a while. Thanks for writing in, Matt