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USA Cycling steps toward zero tolerance policy

A series of new hardline anti-doping policies at USA Cycling will attempt to inject a bit of black and white into shades of gray.

USA Cycling will soon enact a formal zero-tolerance doping policy for its employees and contractors, drawing a line in the sand by defining who can and can’t work at the governing body.

The policy, which is still under evaluation by internal counsel but is likely to be enacted within weeks, is roughly structured into two branches, each defined by the individuals it prohibits from working at or with USA Cycling. It replaces informal rules, removing gray areas and better-defining key terms as the governing body seeks to put on a clean, fresh face in the wake of a decade and a half of doping scandals.

Derek Bouchard-Hall, USA Cycling’s new CEO, previously described his organization’s new, tougher stance on dopers in broad terms, expressing the need to evaluate the context of doping offenses before metering punishment. On Tuesday, he explained the new policy in detail.

The first section states that USA Cycling will not hire any employee or contractor with a proven doping past to work directly with athletes — any coach, trainer, or doctor must have a clean record. Bouchard-Hall defined “proven doping past” as having served a sanction from USADA or WADA.

“This has already been done informally, but we’re putting into a formal policy,” Bouchard-Hall said. “We’re not in the business of evaluating rumor and innuendo. But with a proven doping past, you will not work at USA Cycling with athletes.”

The second policy is more stringent. USA Cycling will not hire any employee or contractor, whether he or she works directly with athletes or not, who has a proven connection to doping from “this point forward,” Bouchard-Hall said. So if a rider or coach or doctor is busted from October 2015 onward, he or she cannot work at USA Cycling in any capacity.

To augment this new policy, USA Cycling will ask new employees to sign a statement when they are hired, verifying that they have never been involved in doping in any way. If an employee is proven to be involved in doping after hiring, and thus to have lied on the signed statement, he or she will be terminated.

Whether USA Cycling can ask current employees to sign such a statement has not yet been determined, though Bouchard-Hall would like to do so.

“We are seeking to do that with all employees, including those that are here today. But that’s a legal nuance we need to work out, whether we can do that or not,” he said.

Once the new policies have cleared USA Cycling’s legal team, they “will be a formal policy, in our employee handbook for everyone to see,” Bouchard-Hall said.

Bouchard-Hall is hoping to provide yet another disincentive to dope by showing that doping can have professional ramifications well after an athlete’s riding career.

“For us, this is not at all about vengeance, I want to be very clear about that,” Bouchard-Hall said. “This is about stopping doping in the future. The policies that we’re making are not about putting further penalties on those in the past, it’s about how we stop doping going forward. That’s the objective.”

Bouchard-Hall’s previous statements caused some online controversy, in particular his contention that “there will be no coaches working with our athletes or directly with athletes who have a doping past. Full stop.”

On Tuesday, Bouchard-Hall clarified that the policy does not apply beyond USA Cycling employees and into American-registered teams and riders. USA Cycling does not have the jurisdiction to apply its new rules outside its own organization.

“I saw in the Twittersphere that we’re now in the business of policing athletes outside USA Cycling,” he said. “That’s not the case. What does this mean for Jonathan Vaughters? Nothing. We will not hire Vaughters to be a coach, but this has nothing to do with Cannondale-Garmin. We don’t have any jurisdiction over that.

“Anyone that leapt to the conclusion that we’re going to be out stopping teams with doping past, we’re not. That’s not our role. But we hold ourselves to very high standards.”

The new policies are part of a wider restructuring Bouchard-Hall says has only just begun.

“This is a bit of a symbolic statement for us. But symbolic statements matter for USA Cycling.”