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“When not a single athlete’s right is violated to compete on a level playing field. That’s the point when we’ve had success and I can tell you that the USADA staff is dedicated day in and day out, weekends, 24/7, hop...

National Geographic Channel




09.11.2014 @ 12:30 Posted by Joseph Doherty

Last week on, we brought you a report from a recent interview with Levi Leipheimer by VeloNews about doping. VeloNews recently conducted another interview on the subject, this time with the head of USADA, Travis Tygart, the men responsible for brining down riders like Lance Armstrong and helping to expose the truth.


Like Leipheimer, Tygart shares the view that it takes courage for riders to confess to doping and that it should be commended, even though they have done wrong.


“They’re obviously a brave group of riders, to come in and tell the truth. They put their careers at risk by coming in, rather than doing a duck-and-dive — retire and then walk away. Our hope is that they’ve been all embraced, not for the doping that they did, but hopefully they can be embraced for when given the opportunity to come in and take the stand with hopes of doing the right thing — that was to be truthful and to take the stand on a sport that had a deep and justified view on doping to hopefully change that.”


Tygart faces the conflict of doing the right thing, his job, and exposing the cheats for who they are and the fact that brining these people down will hurt them and their careers. But he acknowledges it is difficult but he has to do his job and they don’t expose dopers to hurt them, but to make cycling cleaner.


“Nothing we did was aimed at hurting anybody. It was the decisions they made to violate the rules and use performance-enhancing drugs. Our hope was always to be realistic about the pressure that they faced and the culture that they lived in and just hold them accountable under the rule, but do it in a way that was fair and appreciated, where they fell on the hierarchy of culpability. Make no mistake, there were true victims out there that didn’t participate in the doping. Maybe they didn’t win or have success, so they left the sport prematurely. Those are the true victims and those are the people we should be talking about more. They were the ones who got more violated.”


For riders like Dave Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and Christian Vande Velde, who all confessed to doping in the aftermath of the Reasoned Decision published by USADA that led to the destruction of Lance Armstrong, they were the first to experience the truth and reconciliation system, where they had reduced sentences and could return to the sport earlier in return for their help to expose other cheats and for admitting to their crimes.


“Our hope was a full truth and reconciliation was established immediately upon our recent decision. That was why we were hopeful that Lance was going to come in in June. Having that open disclosure would’ve been huge and a wave of riders would’ve felt empowered enough to spark a dramatic cultural shift. It’s taken a lot longer than we hoped, largely it was out of our control, but you’ve got three of the most powerful people in the history of the sport held accountable for their failure to address the issues. Being [Former UCI President Pat] McQuaid, the [UCI] general secretary, and [UCI] general counsel, and now they’re all gone. They were replaced about a year ago with a completely new leadership team. This new group took office completely looking after clean athletes’ rights. So this review [the Cycling Independent Reform Commission] they’re doing hopefully closes the book on the chapter, but you know, we have to remain vigilant at all levels going forward because this board particularly with its history, has to let go the temptations given how difficult it is and what the benefit of drugs can provide to it. In addition to that culture is an ongoing battle to ensure that clean athletes’ rights are upheld.”


Looking to the future, Tygart sees the number of doing cases declining as riders realize the risk factor of doping outstrips the reward.


“The heart of it is that it’s an ethical and cultural decision to be made by teams, trainers, sport directors, and athletes, and whether they’re going to participate in these types of conspiracies to defraud with the use of these PEDs. So it starts at the top and certainly USADA alone can’t change the global culture of cycling as a whole, but it really starts with leadership at the top and that the risk reward analysis is structured so that it’s against someone taking that risk. No one in their right mind is going to violate the rules if that means putting things like their relationship with family and friends at risk, simply because they want to win. But because it is so costly, there needs to be incentives to not take that risk and the people who play by the rules should be compensated handsomely.”


Tygart believes that all athletes should be given the benefit of the doubt and the public should believe riders are clean unless they are proven otherwise.


“I think every athlete deserves the presumption of innocence unless proven otherwise. I think absolutely that sports fans should believe what they see. I mean look, it puts a huge burden on those of us in the trenches, doing our best to protect clean athletes. It puts a big burden on us to ensure that testing is as good as it can be and look, we dream of the day that we remove any doubt because we have a testing system that can not only detect whether or not someone is using something, but also takes a different view by proving that someone is clean. That’s something we’ve talked about and been dreaming about for years. Of course we’re not there yet, but its something that we are working towards.”


Tygart above all is a believer of fairness and thinks that if you confess to doping, you shouldn’t be treated the exact same as someone who doesn’t confess or show any signs of repentance.


“I think fairness goes to the rules and having a judgment call to see where it’s allowed. Certainly, we could’ve given some of the riders who got six months two years, but in our mind that wasn’t fair or right under the rules. Our hope was that they would come in and participate and be a part of the solution rather than retire and leave the sport behind. We also thought they would not give that same fairness to coaches and team directors who violated the rules.”


“As you can probably see, the greater good was to completely clean the system out and around here, the term is, “dismantle the system” because the structure of doctors, coaches and team directors had two parts to their salary. Part of their pay was to help riders train and race, but the other part was to help racers use the drugs in order to win. So we saw that if there were people in sport still that hadn’t been caught, they’d most likely continue to do what they’d been doing.”


“So our decisions were to be fair within the rules, use discretion judiciously and thoughtfully. At the end of the day, there was a process for anybody who didn’t agree with our decisions. The UCI or WADA could’ve appealed, but no one felt the need to do so during the given time period.”


And when will Tygart consider his battle against doping with U.S athletes a success?


“When not a single athlete’s right is violated to compete on a level playing field. That’s the point when we’ve had success and I can tell you that the USADA staff is dedicated day in and day out, weekends, 24/7, hoping to achieve that, if we can.”


“This is a tough and ugly fight sometimes and shame on us if sometimes we are tired, dreary, or unwilling to battle that, but it’s probably no different an effort than for athletes who are trying to represent this country and win — the right way. But we care about those athletes and those that represent the integrity of clean sport and everything that good sport can do for society.”




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