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Tygart ponders why athletes wouldn’t come clean in an amnesty environment

  • By Matthew Beaudin
  • Published Nov. 27, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 30, 2014 at 1:33 PM EST
USADA CEO Travis Tygart pointed to Levi Leipheimer's dismissal by Omega Pharma-Quick Step as the exact opposite of the "right system" — a truth and reconciliation commission — that he envisions for doping confessions. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com

BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — Why shouldn’t a rider guilty of doping sins come clean?

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart can’t see why not, if the proper system for disclosure is established.

Tygart has called for a truth and reconciliation commission in the post-Armstrong investigation landscape, and he’s been doing it for a while. As the UCI charts its course through a public relations nightmare, cycling may see its closet doors opened and its skeletons splayed on the floor.

And under the right system, Tygart wonders, why wouldn’t athletes come clean?

“Why wouldn’t you? What’s the holdup? If you truly care, assuming you’re not going to generate evidence on yourself, why wouldn’t you? There’s no good reason. You, in a very short period of time, address your past and unshackle yourself from it forever,” Tygart told VeloNews. “Short of that, it’s going to continue to drip out, drips at a time. The past will necessarily dig itself up, and you will constantly have to be addressing it. So why not do something bold now, and visionary now, to fully untangle yourself from it, and then move forward with a zero-tolerance perspective but with the appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again?”

Tygart was an early proponent of a full-disclosure system, and has suggested full amnesty for riders who doped in their careers (not to garner recent results) who come clean, and a tiered discipline for those responsible for the doping of athletes.

There is reason to think that truth-telling wouldn’t go over swimmingly in the cycling pool, however: Levi Leipheimer, who provided USADA’s Armstrong inquiry with information, was promptly sacked from Omega Pharma-Quick Step after admitting to using performance enhancing drugs at times in his career. Right after that, Tygart blasted Omega Pharma for what he called a short-sightedness that was only capable of seeing near-term profits.

In a later interview with VeloNews, he furthered that sentiment, and said that cycling’s image problem could sink its profits in the long term if the sport isn’t perceived as clean.

“The growth would decline in every sport, cycling included, if parents out there today, who are buying all the gear and all the equipment and pushing their kids to participate in it, suddenly realize, ‘oh, the only way you can be successful is, you have to use all these drugs at the pro level, at the Olympic level or the high school level or the college level,’” Tygart said. “You’re going to have a lot less going into those sports, thereby the economic model of the sport is going to really suffer. That may need to happen for the sports to realize, ‘hey, people don’t like us just for the competition and aren’t willing to spend money just to see people killing themselves to win.’”

In the full light of retrospect, fans can see cycling in the 1990s and early 2000s for what it actually was — something Tygart likened to professional wrestling.

“That’s entertainment. That’s for profit,” he said. “That’s not what most people are getting on a bike and riding around the streets for good exercise are doing, or racing around a local crit or whatever.”

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Matthew Beaudin

Matthew Beaudin

Matthew Beaudin graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder's journalism school in 2005 and immediately moved to Telluride, Colorado, to write and ski, though the order is fuzzy. Beaudin was the editor of the Telluride Daily Planet for five years. He now lives in Boulder, where he joined VeloNews in the spring of 2012. Music. Coffee. Bikes. That about sums it up.

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