VN: Cycling is taking some body blows these days. As a pro today, many now assume you’re doped to the gills. How do you deal with that kind of negativity?
VN: It sucks. I get angry about it. The thing I get angry about is having to defend my sport for things that took place even before I was a professional. People say, “Lance was doing this in 1999 or 2002.” As a professional cyclist, you’re stuck trying to answers those questions. It’s not nice. No matter what you say, those stories are still out there. It’s hard to deal with. All you can do is look forward. The other side of it, that doesn’t get reported, I am almost proud that these stories are out there. It shows that we are actually trying to do something. There are a lot of sports that do not do anything. These other sports do not have scandals because they do not. At FIFA, not all their players are out-of-competition tested. It’s hard to have positives if you do not have tests. We have these scandals because we are trying to fix the problem. You cannot snap your fingers and make it better overnight. That’s not how the world works.
VN: Do you believe that your rivals are clean?
TF: I give everyone the benefit of the doubt until someone tests positive. You cannot be thinking about that — that’s not what I need to be focusing on. At the end of the day, I can only affect my own decisions. I cannot stop someone from doping. If they are going to make that decision, I just hope they get caught. I think the vast majority of the peloton is clean. Having a 100-percent peloton that is clean will never happen. That’s like saying we will end crime. No matter how severe the penalty is, there will always be someone who will take the risk. There is a certain element of human nature. You’re always going to fight a battle against that. You hope that the tests are as effective as possible to catch.
VN: People say that the peloton is in a very different place these days; when and how did change occur from your perspective?
TF: I wasn’t there in the bad old days. I never saw the worst of it. It had already changed a fair bit before I even got here. Bringing the biological passport in has been huge. I do not understand the ins and outs of the science of it. It is very effective. I put faith in the anti-doping tests. There are ways around them, but the tests we have now are a whole lot more effective than they were 15 years ago. They are more precise and can detect more things than before. The margins are lot tighter on what they can detect. I hope they are catching anyone who is doping. The guys who do not get caught, they’re not doping.
VN: Did you watch the Lance Armstrong interview on Oprah?
TF: No. I am so tired of it. I read the highlights of it afterward. You kind of have to, because this is my career, just in case he had dropped some huge bomb. To be honest, I have stopped reading these stories, because they are the same story. I cannot count how many Lance Armstrong dope stories I have read in the past several months, and to tell the truth, they are all the same story. Maybe there are new details, but it’s the same thing, before you just become numb to it.
VN: Do you think that Armstrong owes cycling, the peloton and the pros, an apology?
TF: I would like it if he would just go away. I am so tired of hearing about Lance Armstrong. He did what he did, he had a lot of glory, and caused a lot of damage to the sport. I think the biggest favor he could do would be just to go away. Stop giving interviews. Stop tweeting pictures of himself with yellow jerseys. Stop stirring the pot. Just stop. I would just love to get on VeloNews and not see a Lance Armstrong story. I do not remember the last time that happened.
VN: How do your peers in the peloton feel about all of the negative headlines?
TF: Cycling’s been my life since I was a kid. Since I was about 15 years old, I wanted to be a pro. Since I was 19, I have been a pro. It’s my life. I hate seeing what the sport is going through right now. It’s a necessary evil. We are dealing with our demons. I also feel like it’s all out there already. I would like to start moving forward. The demons have been revealed. Now it’s time to find solutions and make the changes. We cannot just rehash history forever. Now I saw somewhere they’re bringing up stuff in the 1980s. That some team was doping in the 1980s. How far back are we going to go? We can do this forever. Let’s kill all of our heroes. I am not condoning anyone having doped in any way. At some point, it stops being productive. It’s not a secret anymore. That stuff was rampant back then — obviously — it’s come out. Everyone knows that now. To keep talking about how rampant it was stops accomplishing anything. I would like to focus on the next step of the process.
VN: Several of your teammates and [team manager Jonathan] Vaughters played a key role in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency case. What did you know about that?
TF: I don’t know how that went down between those guys. I know six years ago, the very first morning of the very first team camp, JV gave a speech and laid it out: “this is what we are, this is what we believe in. Some of you have sordid pasts.” David Millar was sitting right there. “What happened is in the past. If it’s every called up to testify, tell the truth. You will never be punished for what happened in the past. But what we do in the future is what we care about.” He stuck to his guns on that. I respect that. Those guys, yes, they cheated and made mistakes. They actively made a decision to change that. You have to respect that, too. It’s been hard. They’re such good friends. I’ve known them so long now. Christian Vande Velde is like a big brother to me. I talk to him all the time and it’s really been hard to watch him go through this. I feel for him. I am not giving him a pass, either. He did what he did. When a friend makes a mistake in life, you stand by your friends; it’s been a hard process.
VN: What are your thoughts about them returning to the team in March?
TF: Personally, I agree with what JV said. You cannot change what you did in the past, what’s important is what you’re doing now. I fully believe those guys that they haven’t done any of that stuff [doped since joining the team]. I am 100-percent confident since they’ve come to Slipstream that they’ve been on the straight and narrow. As a cyclist, you go crazy if you worry about what happened in the past. I am worried about what’s happening now.
VN: Have you spoken with Vande Velde, Zabriskie, Danielson lately?
TF: I cannot speak for them personally. I am sure it’s nice to not be hiding that kind of secret anymore. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to carry that. Things sounded pretty insane back then. It’s such a messy process. Everybody is doing the best they can to make right at this point.
VN: There is a lot of anger out there. Should people believe that cycling has changed?
TF: I hope so. I want them to. I can give them a lot of reasons why this sport is beautiful. I can go down the list of everything that’s happened to make cycling clean. The scandals are out there. Fans got burned. Everybody got burned. I was a fan. I remember watching Lance win all those Tours. I was a kid. I am just watching it on TV, thinking it’s awesome. I understand that everyone feels burned by that. It’s not just Lance, but that whole generation. How many guys from that period have tested positive? It sucks. All I can say, this generation is trying to doing it different.
VN: Do you believe that [Bradley] Wiggins won the Tour de France clean?
TF: Until there is something to prove otherwise, I trust that he did. I rode with Wiggo at Cofidis. I rode with Wiggo at Garmin in 2009 in the Tour. I never saw anything during that period that would indicate he was doing anything suspicious. I trust him.
TF: He got caught. Granted, it was a weird thing, but something came up. He got suspended. The process took way longer than it should have. He got his Tour win revoked. Again, the benefit of the doubt, I am assuming he’s doing it all straight up now.
VN: With the anger, does the peloton today feel any sort of responsibility to reach out to fans?
TF: It’s a really weird situation right now … you try. I am up and down with it. I make the mistakes of reading comment sections sometimes. I get so angry. People are painting with such broad strokes. You’re saying this about me, but I wasn’t even there. It pisses me off. But when I stop and think about it, I understand why people feel this way. It is what it is … I just hope with all this, that we come out of this for the better on the other side. It will be really nice to read some positive stories about cycling again.