U.S. Anti-Doping Agency head Travis Tygart said a truth-and-reconciliation program will help cycling to emerge from its era of doping.
“Until we’ve done an amnesty-type program and cleaned out the system as much as we can, it’s not yet time for zero tolerance,” Tygart said yesterday during a panel about doping. “It continues to foster the code of silence.”
Tygart was joined for the discussion at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut, by former cyclists Floyd Landis and Jonathan Vaughters, who have confessed to performance-enhancing drug use throughout their careers.
“The panel is an idea that we can get some bright young kids with outside perspective to take a look at the approach that’s been taken, how it’s worked and how it hasn’t,” Landis said in an interview prior to the session.
The U.S. government has joined a whistle-blower lawsuit brought by Landis that accuses former teammate Lance Armstrong of defrauding the government by using banned drugs while riding for the U.S. Postal Service team. Landis, who lost his 2006 Tour de France title for doping, declined to address the case.
USADA in August wiped out Armstrong’s record seven Tour de France wins and banned him from competing in Olympic-level sports for life. After previously denying doping, Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey in January that he cheated throughout his career.
While investigating the sport, Colorado Springs, Colorado- based USADA obtained doping confessions from several cyclists, many of whom said they didn’t trust the system in which they raced, Tygart said. It’s a system Tygart said he’s trying to dismantle.
“This was not just about athletes, and that was why we gave every rider, not just Armstrong, the opportunity to come in and sit down and be part of that solution,” Tygart said.
Armstrong said on Feb. 20 that he won’t participate in the probe by testifying to everything he knows about doping in the sport.
The “single biggest issue” in the fight against doping is funding, said Tygart.
Vaughters, who is president of the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams, said pro racing squads are required to put “an absurdly low figure” of $200,000 aside for anti-doping, though teams want to be sure their money is being properly used before offering more.
The sport must look to protect people who were victimized by cheating, Tygart said.
“There were people who were in that culture and didn’t do it, and worse there were people who had a chance to be in that culture and walked away,” Tygart said. “We’ve got to find a way to protect those people.”
Vaughters, a 39-year-old who now manages the Garmin-Sharp racing team, said the sport “by and large, is clean” now.
“Keeping it that way is a very delicate proposition,” he said.
Vaughters, also a former Armstrong teammate, said Garmin- Sharp was built with confessed ex-dopers such as David Millar and Christian Vande Velde as well as young riders who know little about the sport’s past.
It also helps to have confessed cheats sharing a speaking engagement with the top doping crusader in the U.S., Vaughters said.
“It’s a good sign,” he said in an interview after the session ended. “If we’re all sitting at the same table saying the same thing, that’s a lot of progress from where it was 10 years ago.”
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