What if the only way to level the playing field were to cheat?
That, essentially, is what Slipstream Sports CEO and former professional cyclist Jonathan Vaughters said led to his decision to dope as a professional cyclist.
Vaughters eloquently admitted to doping in a New York Times op/ed piece that appeared online Saturday afternoon and will hit newsstands in the paper’s Sunday edition.
“I chose to lie over killing my dream. I chose to dope. I am sorry for that decision, and I deeply regret it,” he wrote, adding that he began a clean team in what’s now called Garmin-Sharp so that choice for his riders was “eliminated.”
Vaughters raced for the U.S. Postal Service team alongside Lance Armstrong during 1998-99, and for Crédit Agricole in 2000-02. He retired at 30, then began a managerial career that commenced with the Colorado-based junior team 5280-Subaru and culminated in the top-tier Garmin-Sharp squad, which won the Giro d’Italia this year with Ryder Hesjedal.
As a young man, Vaughters wrote in the Times, cycling was his escape from everything — bullies, money troubles at home, that he couldn’t find a homecoming date.
“These early rides make up many of my memories from my teenage years; the crashes, the adrenaline and the discipline of training every day. But the most vivid memory from those rides was how I dreamed,” he wrote.
Vaughters said he was told he wouldn’t cut it as a pro unless he doped — that cheating was the final “2 percent” that could keep a dream alive in the eyes of those “who couldn’t see your heart.”
The lie was brutal, and even though success was possible for a clean athlete, it was only attainable when the rules were enforced, he wrote. Vaughters chose to keep his dream alive by cheating — a hard call, he said, because when regulations aren’t enforced, making the right choice, walking away and refusing to dope meant “deciding to end your dream, because you could not be competitive.”
“When I was racing in the 1990s and early 2000s, the rules were easily circumvented by any and all — and if you wanted to be competitive, you first had to keep up. This environment is what we must continuously work to prevent from ever surfacing again. It destroys dreams. It destroys people. It destroys our finest athletes,” he wrote in the Times.
Editor’s note: Read the entire column at The New York Times.