Garmin-Transitions team manager Jonathan Vaughters told VeloNews Thursday morning that his team will focus on winning the Amgen Tour of California in light of sweeping doping allegations announced by Floyd Landis Wednesday that include Garmin’s overall race leader Dave Zabriskie.
“I’m going to stay focused on keeping this team, and its tradition, and doing what we’ve always said we’re doing, standing for fair competition and clean racing,” Vaughters said. “I’m focused on continuing in doing what we’ve done and make sure that the future generation does not have doubts cast over it.”
Vaughters said he had a brief chat with Zabriskie Wednesday night after The Wall Street Journal and ESPN.com broke the story of Landis’ admissions of doping and his allegations that Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer and Zabriskie were all also involved.
“Our conversation was fairly short and succinct,” Vaughters said. “Dave is a very private and quiet person. I simply expressed to him that I believe he can win this race, currently, clean, and that we’re going to support him doing that. And that we can withstand any level of scrutiny anyone would place on us in that regard. I think Dave is going to focus on winning this race clean, along with the rest of our team.”
During 1998 and 1999 Vaughters was a member of the U.S. Postal Service team run by Bruyneel and Armstrong. From 2000 through 2002 he rode with the French team Crédit Agricole before finishing his career with the U.S. team Prime Alliance in 2003.
Asked if Landis’ statements were consistent with anything he might have witnessed during his tenure at Postal, Vaughters said, “Everything he’s talking about is well after my time with the team. What can I say about them flying to see (UCI president Hein Verbruggen) in 2002? Floyd’s comments post-dated my existence there.”
In Landis’ e-mail messages to cycling officials he also claimed he hired physiologist Dr. Allen Lim in 2005 “to help with details and logistics,” and that Lim helped Leipheimer and Landis prepare blood transfusions.
After Landis’ positive drug test following the 2006 Tour de France, Lim took on a full-time position with Vaughters at Slipstream Sports, working with the team that evolved into Garmin-Transitions. In September of 2006 Vaughters and Lim announced that the team was implementing an internally funded blood-monitoring program that would supplement anti-doping tests conducted by the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
From 2007 through 2009 Vaughters and Lim developed new methods of aiding performance, including the use of cooling vests prior to time trials, and restricting the consumption of gluten products during training and competition. In the fall of 2009 Lim left the Slipstream Sports organization to work with Armstrong and Bruyneel at RadioShack.
When asked for a reaction on the allegation that Slipstream’s former team physiologist might have been involved in clandestine blood-doping practices with Landis prior to his time with Vaughters’ “clean team”, Vaughters said, “During Allen’s time at our team he was absolutely on board with the anti-doping philosophy with the team. He was always supervised by his immediate boss, Dr. Prentice Steffen. His work was impeccable with us; he was very supportive of the overall philosophy of our team. His past is something I can’t really comment on.”
Asked if, given his own breadth of understanding about the methods athletes use to cheat drug tests, Landis’ detailed claims of blood transfusions and injections of EPO sounded valid, Vaughters pointed the question towards Landis.
“That is something you need to ask Floyd,” he said. “Of course I am aware that blood transfusions have occurred in this sport, and that doping using recombinant erythropoietin has occurred. But the viability of what Floyd is claiming happened is something that only he knows.”
Vaughters was adamant that his team’s philosophy has never been about condemning those that may have made decisions regarding doping in the past, but rather centered around an insistence that all results achieved in team colors were legitimate.
“I have always hired riders that were, first, 100-percent committed to clean racing once they are part of our organization, and second, that I knew could perform at the highest level clean. That doesn’t mean winning everything, that means performing at the highest level, and doing it without doping. Obviously my approach has not been judgmental to the past, as evidenced by fact that David Millar is on our team. Our team has never condemned anyone. We accepted David Millar with open arms into our team because of his abilities, his focus and his dedication to racing clean with us.”
As far as the remaining four stages at the Amgen Tour of California, and the likelihood that Zabriskie would be able to remain focused on protecting his overall lead in the wake of Landis’ allegations, Vaughters was confident in his riders.
“We have a race to win,” he said. “We will win this race clean, and we can withstand any level of scrutiny that anyone wants to place on that (result), period. I have no doubt in my mind, whatsoever. In fact I invite the world to put more scrutiny, more controls, more surveillance on us, to verify what I’m saying.”