To put it another way: has Garmin-Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters throw in the towel?
Has the man who has tried so hard to change pro cycling for the better finally given in to the stupidity, cynicism, pettiness, politics, negativity and corruption?
Maybe he has and maybe he hasn’t but from this distance, it feels like Vaughters has reached the sad conclusion that resistance is futile.
In the past Vaughters was never short on ideas; he was a visionary in a sport crying out for positive change. He had ideas on improving anti-doping programs, on making race coverage more exciting for fans and on building a far better financial structure for teams and sponsors.
Back in late 2011, he had a ten — count ’em — ten point plan for the future of cycling. Ideas that were immediately embraced and championed by nobody at the UCI.
And all these thoughtful proposals are without even mentioning his many valuable contributions in men’s fashion — a daring attempt to improve the sartorial taste level of team managers in their dull track suits.
Vaughters has more ideas in a week than UCI president Patrick McQuaid has had in his eight years in office. That’s a fact, not an opinion.
Still, at this point you have to think even Vaughters is losing interest and energy. Back in October he gave up his post at the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP). Sure, it was a little been there, done that, but they couldn’t get much done, either.
He’s written his How to Get Doping out of Sports for the New York Times. He’s done his panel discussion on doping with Floyd Landis at the Yale Law School. He flew in for the media-hyped Change Cycling Now conference in London with Greg Lemond, Paul Kimmage and the funny and foul-mouthed compression wear marketing guy Jamie Fuller.
Yet, irony of ironies, profession cycling just refuses to move forward.
Despite all his efforts, optimism and commitment, nothing has happened to change the way the UCI governs the sport, the way teams are financially structured and the way anti-doping programs are improved and funded.
In a post-USADA world where the image of cycling is toxic, little if anything has improved beyond banning Lance Armstrong for life. Critics forced the UCI to create an Independent Commission to examine its own role in the dark years of doping and then the UCI killed it. Calls for a Truth & Reconciliation commission have come and gone. Loud talk of a new race format and calendar put together by the Gifted Group have been shelved.
Even USADA CEO Travis Tygart has finally hit a brick wall at the UCI. The Operacion Puerto trial — the second one — six years after the original investigation — dragged on for several months and has no set date for any verdicts. Not that anyone truly expects anything meaningful.
Cycling Ireland recently voted 5-1 to support UCI president McQuaid’s bid for a third term. A decision that journalist Paul Kimmage McQuaid caustically summed up by saying “They voted for Ireland and they’ve fucked cycling.”
Kimmage was in a dark mood and he didn’t pull any punches. “McQuaid is back in now and no one will stand against him. it’s all going to happen again, and again, with no accountability. No one [in authority] paid the price for Festina, no one will pay the price for Armstrong.”
Given the depressing condition of pro cycling, is it any wonder Vaughters now prefers to put his time in on an Executive MBA program at the University of Denver?
Still Vaughters made what we’d call a last-ditched attempt to bring some vision to the blind. In February he presented a proposal to dramatically alter the funding of the anti-doping program, going from 1% of a teams’ operating budget to 8%. That would boost the total budget from 4 million to 40 million.
Would you be surprised to learn that the reaction — for or against — was zero? In our wide-range reading, we couldn’t find a single person or organization other than blogger Gerard Vrooman who had anything to say about Vaughter’s plan.
Not a single word from the UCI.
We sincerely hope that Mr. Vaughters hasn’t given up the good fight. But who could fault him for finally walking away from the disaster site?