Vroom nailed it best:
“It’s really tough news but on the other hand it gives me a lot of confidence in the Slipstream organization. It’s easy to take a tough stance when there are no consequences, it’s much more impressive when a team is willing to take a bullet to protect its philosophy and the cycling sport in general.”
That was his reaction to the team sacking director sportif Matt White for contravening Garmin’s strict anti-doping and medical referral rules. Back in 2009, White referred Trent Lowe to the former US Postal team physician Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral at the Sports Institute of Valencia. A breech and not a good one.
Who is del Moral? A guy whose name has popped up several times in doping investigations. He worked for both ONCE and the US Postal team. Former US Postal employee Emma O’Reilly accused him of whipping out a last second prescription for Lance Armstrong after he positive test for cortisone during the 1999 Tour de France.
During the 2000 Tour de France, journalists videotaped Del Moral disposing of medical waste for US Postal. The goodie bag included syringes, intravenous apparatus and a calf’s blood extract called Actovegin. French police dug into that bag but eventually closed the case after two years.
The Spaniard pulled a paycheck from US Postal team through 2003 — a time when Floyd Landis admits to doping. Del Moral himself claims said he saw no signs of doping within the team during that time. He also said he is legally blind and has a hearing problem. Ahh, just kidding.
In any case, Vroom did a nice job of getting to the essential: when you run a team with the highest ethical standards against doping, you can’t have gray areas, doubts, anything that leaves you open to attack. It’s harsh but integrity isn’t flexible so a well-liked and successful DS like Matt White had to take the fall.
It was a difficult cal for Vaughters. “This was a hard thing to do, a very hard thing to do but was the only thing to do,” said the argyle genius. “Hard decisions need to be made and procedures and policies have to be adhered to. We don’t have a choice if we want the sport to go forward.”
The interesting side point and benefit for Garmin-Cervelo, is the double message. One, we tolerate not the slightest hint of impropriety. Two, we’re not joking about illegal contact with our riders and staff from other teams.
Australian Matt White was strongly linked to the new GreenEdge cycling project in the home country. Vaughters had already gone on record saying he’d launch full legal action against anyone from GreenEdge messing with his riders before the appropriate time period.
So while Vaughters said this dismissal had nothing to do with GreenEdge, he still kills two birds with one stone. Don’t mess with me on doping, don’t mess with me by poaching.
When organizations double in size like Garmin-Cervelo, it’s often an ideal time to re-instill the core values — not just for the new people but the old guard. The bigger roster ups the challenge on communication and making sure everybody understands the program. In sacking White, Vaughters sent a 140 decibel message that even one small slip, a transgression that occurred over a year ago would not be tolerated. Painful for White, but not a bad tactic for Vaughters.
We had the opportunity to chat with Matt White at the Tour de France last season. He struck us a swell, no-nonsense guy with a good sense of humor. One of our favorite photos we took was White holding his son in his arms. We’re sure he’ll have no trouble landing on his feet — back in Australia, most likely. Garmin-Cervelo rolls on and Vroom certainly understood how and why.