Jonathan Vaughters has become one of the most influential people in cycling today. The former cyclist, former teammate of Lance Armstrong came to beat the record for ascension to Mont Ventoux when he was on the team USPostal. He fell into the hells of doping and then left as a renewed director. The American attends BRAND for the purpose of his new book ( One-Way Ticket, Road Books ).
Just released book, why 'Ticket one way 'as a title?
It is about my personal history in cycling, but also in life. I started my professional career in Spain, he talks about US Postal and the time with Lance Armstrong but not only about that. I really wanted to convey the good and the bad things about cycling.
What do you think of the Lance Armstrong documentary?
There is almost nothing new, everything was already known in some way. I know you see what Lance is like as a person, what he is like now and what he was like before. The difficulties he had during his youth were explained. It is a very personal documentary, more than cycling. It is interesting for those who like the character of Armstrong. Lance is Lance, a man who always wants battle even if it doesn't make sense to do it right now.
Any anecdote that you can contribute that is not known about Lance?
It has been a long time since we shared a team. My history with him is more than when we were 14 or 15 years old. We had two seasons in the USPostal but he was the boss and I was a bit of a shy runner. In that part of my career it didn't bring me much. Lance was great as a cyclist, but he didn't do anything terribly wrong to me as others might say.
Do you still talk today?
We hardly speak at all. For the last 10 years we have practically not spoken a word. Lance and I had very different philosophies years later. He has misgivings about my career as a manager. Lance thinks that not being in cycling makes my figure bigger, but he is not. He couldn't continue cycling after the things he's done. On the sporting issue, I think he has to stay out. Cycling would do him a lot of damage if he was inside somehow.
How do you remember the 1999 Tour where the Lance era began?
I have few memories, because in the first stages there was already one each and I was in the center of the montonera (abandoned in stage 2). I remember how we prepared the Tour in the previous races and how it was his first victory. It is easy for many of that US Postal to speak well of him. He used the team to win the Tour. People such as the Triki Beltrn. If you are a teammate and are by his side, he will treat you well; But if you are on the other side or have a different opinion, it will always make war on you. This happened in the case of Contador. It is the best example. He was another leader with goals and Lance did not behave well with him because he could not use him for his cause. Lance is Machiavellian.
He wouldn't let anyone shadow him.
Landis, Hamilton and Contador, who also had their goals, did not quite fit with him. It makes sense because they are leaders who collide. This in modern cycling is changing, but before there were 8 men to work for the leader and that's it. Armstrong always behaved well with the people who worked for him except for the three of them because they also wanted to be leaders.
Those who justify him say that he would have also won without doping.
I do not agree with this. Everyone has taken things, okay. But if you and I are going to have 10 beers, the next morning we both have headaches. I take two aspirins and if they suit me, I work normally. It means that the medication worked very well with my body. If you take two aspirins but they don't work for you and you're in bad shape, you spend the day in bed. The medicine does not affect everyone equally. Doping, the same. They all used EPO but it worked more for one than for another. There is a time in cycling where we will never know who was the best. It is impossible to know. Lance was very strong with or without doping, Ullrich or Pantani, too. But to say that Lance won 7 Tours without doping we do not know. Perhaps EPO was more effective for him than for another. Perhaps Moncuti, who was on the 18th, was the strongest. We will never know this because you cannot calculate to know the truth.
He had the favor of the UCI.
I don't know if it influenced much or not. What he had different from the rest was power and money. I was on a French team after the US Postal (I ran from 2000 to 2002 on Crdit Agricole) and we had no logistics for doping. If you wanted to do it you had to do it, there were no doctors for this. Lance had everything, he could rent a private plane and ride around in the sky while doing a blood transfusion if he wanted to. He had the money and the logistics to dope. There are people who think they had a doping from NASA or something, but it was not. What he had was help and little risk. I knew they weren't going to catch him. He could do it calmly and methodologically. That's a huge plus, he had no concern that the UCI would catch him. If you control the police (referring to the authorities), it is easier to commit the crime.
No one ever disagreed with you?
At least in my years, 1998 and 1999, no. It is said that Lance forced the rest to dop and this is not true. He said the top 8 on the team were going to the Tour. I never pressured anyone to dope, but it was a very simple math: you had to be among the best to be and if that was what you had to dope for, it was the runner's decision. In my case, for example, it was my decision. He never told me to dope. But of course, when your boss is doping and wants a strong team, there are many options to follow that path. If you had told him 'Lance, I don't dope', he would have said no problem as long as you were the strongest.
But if it was already difficult to enter the team without doping, winning a stage would be impossible.
Yes, you are right. But there are some exceptions. In 99 I think Vandevelde entered the clean team. He was young (23 years old) and the team leaders didn't want him to start doping so soon. Even so, he was the strongest 8 and the team accepted him. He made the Tour de France clean. It is very exceptional, few succeeded but he did. Although Vandevelde later dopped two years later, it only lasted two years. People only see black or white, if someone dop once they cross it out. The public wants black or white, but there are many runners who have doping during one part of their career and another, no. There are many grays in between, not everything is black or white. Christophe Bassons had a reputation for not doping, but it wasn't that he was white and Armstrong black. It is not so easy. There were many cyclists who stopped doping after 1998 because they were afraid of being caught. At that time it was difficult to get caught, but in 98 the police came in and everything changed. Many decided to stop and change their life. But all these details are already lost.
When did you first dop?
It was long before the US Postal, Armstrong started at 21 and I at 23. I spent two years in the Santa Clara team (1994 and 1995) in which they did not want us to spend. bouquets clean, but very bad. That s: clean. In each race I was one of the worst in the peloton. He came in last, only struggling to finish the races. I only thought about surviving for two years. When the time came when doping was an option, in 1996, it was like finding water in the desert. I didn't want to survive, I wanted to run, go ahead, do tactics and try to win something. When you go inside a doped platoon and you are not, there is no strategy. Everything is suffering, suffering and suffering. It is very demotivating. When doping came it was like finding a lake in the desert and I wanted to drink as much water as possible.
No one noticed that it was a health hazard?
In cycling you go 70 or 80 an hour on the road and there is tremendous danger. There are more deaths in cycling than in any other sport. The danger is very high, you are always taking risk, and doping remains one more possibility. When you are 23 years old and you are going down a port in the Alps at 100km / h you do not think that at 60 years old you will have a doping health problem. Sorry, but this is the truth. Lite athletes, the best, are because they take risks. And doping is another risk. In society, in general, when we see someone who takes a risk, we think well of him. We say 'he has had balls and he has won, good for him'. People in sports take a risk, win, and the rest applaud. Doping, I repeat, is just one more risk. When you dope, you look like a man who has balls and takes a risk to win. It is a cultural problem more than anything else, not only for whites or blacks who dope or not. What needs to change is the vision we have of winners who take risks.
Do you think all this is solved?
Now cycling is more It cannot be said that no one is doping, there will always be someone who takes a small advantage, but what is happening now has nothing to do with what happened before. In the 90's, doping was a 5 or 10% advantage. undetectable in the controls. Ah it was impossible to run without EPO. Although in the 70s 80 they dopped a lot, they did it but they did not get as much advantage. A clean runner could run and even win things at that time.
Since when do you think it was impossible to win without doping?
Since 1994 or by ah. Now we are in a time similar to the one before. Now you can dope, you may not get caught, but the benefits are not as great as those of the EPO. So clean runners can now win. Doping now gives you a 0.00005% advantage. In 1996 it was 10%. It is completely different. Currently, there is no doping worth doping for. The risk is too high and the advantage is too low, that's why we are in a time where you can run clean. In the 1990s, risk was low and compensation high.
] During all the 1990s, was that so? It seems that until 1996 there is a couple …
The worst year of doping was 1996. It was before they did the hematocrit test, from the EPO tests … that was the peak. Most of the public thinks it was at Operation Port in 2006 or with Armstrong's confession in 2012, but it was not. When we got to the 'Festina case' in 1998, it was because the hematocrit test worked. In 98 the records in the ports fell compared to 96, everything started earlier. The worst was not in 2010 or 2015, it was much earlier. In 1996, there was no police and there appeared to be no criminals. We were all stealing from each other but we were not criminals because there were no rules, no police.
Speaking of its beginnings in Spain, how was that start so much fun in Santa Clara?
It was the years that changed my life. Ah I learned to be a professional cyclist. I have great memories of my season in Spain. My second family was the Santa Clara for many years and it is likely that my best moments were spent there, even though it was a team catastrophe. We were very bad in terms of performance.
Regarding the future, Education First is about to die but I already solved it in the past with his company Slipstream that sold it on time saving the team.
The commercial issue within the world of cycling is always It's hard. It's a sport that has no money from television rights. We are at the expense of sponsors. Education First is a very strong company but now we are not traveling much. I want to help them lower the team budget a little to look for a new sponsorship from another brand. We want to be more strict when it comes to doing things. We are the professional team with the longest history in American cycling. We started in the 2008 Tour and we hope to be in the 2020 one. We cannot throw everything overboard I work.
But, save the team by 2021?
We have it very well on track, there is something out there that looks good. I am not going to guarantee anything because the world has changed a lot in the last three months. There is nothing guaranteed but now I am much more positive than two months ago.
How about the restructuring of the season?
The calendar made by the UCI is very loaded, there are too many days of competition in too short a space of time. The day of the Pars-Roubaix coincides with a stage of the Vuelta and another of the Giro. It is crazy. We also don't know yet exactly if, with the theme of so much traveling, we can do everything right. You have to be flying every day by plane and now I don't see the world capable of doing that. The three-week laps are also difficult because you have to carry thousands of people from town to town every day, although I hope everything goes well. If we do 10 races well in 2020 I will be satisfied, it will be a miracle. Doing 100 races in 90 days seems too much to me, it's difficult. I hope we can bear it.
The 'Grande Boucl' saves all year?
From the commercial point of view: If the Tour goes well, the season goes well. This is very important for the sponsors. I really like Pars-Roubaix and other classics but of course you have to think in saving the season and that is why we will all give priority to the Tour de France.
How do you see your pupils: the Urn, Higuita, Dani Martnez and company?
This world is different, I am proud of them. In a much more committed generation. They were born 22 years ago, at 12 14 they knew about Lance. They saw that and did not want to repeat it. They don't want it to happen to them in the future. This is good for sport because anti-doping, analysis, police and others are fine, but the key is the cultural issue. Everything has to come out of them. They are aware that if one does doping, it ruins the life of the other because the sponsor will leave. This mentality in my time does not exist. We were very close friends, but criminal friends. You ask for doping from your partner, another great criminal of my time. At the moment, what I see with the Higuita and company is that they know that they have a responsibility in the sport and with the public.
Has any runner reproached you for your doping practices?
Yes, many. And it's okay. They must know the story and I have to excuse them. I was part of a generation that almost ruined the sport for them. It's not her fault, it's mine.
Finally, you argue that you have to be cycling but Armstrong does not. If Lance is allowed to come back, will you understand?
No. Until now he has never taken the responsibility of telling what really happened. He wants everyone to think that he was the best and that everyone was doped. He wants to become the victim saying that he had a very large sanction when everyone doping. People ask me why he has a lifetime penalty and many others don't. It is easy to explain, even if it doesn't seem like it. At the time USADA came and asked us if we had doping and if we wanted to help avoid it in the future. Many of us said yes. It is as if you break something in your house and your mother asks you and you always say you deny it, a day will come when your mother will not let you leave the house for two months. They are the rules of life. If you are honest, you recognize it and help to solve it, the world forgives you. In this world, people want to forgive, we are human and we make mistakes. But Lance, when USADA and AMA came and asked him, he always said no. Like the boy who broke the plate at home and never took responsibility. The USADA and the AMA practiced as a mother and punished him for life.
Don't be convinced of your repentance …
No, no, no, no. The truth is, no. But it is only my opinion.