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USA Cycling announced Tuesday that Steve Johnson, president and CEO of USA Cycling, will step down from his post next October following the 2015 UCI road world championships in Richmond, Virginia. After more than 15 years with the organization, Johnson has decided that it is time to pursue new challenges and opportunities.
“The organization has never been in a better place,” Johnson said in a press release. “We have a solid financial foundation, an amazing and professional staff, an outstanding board of directors and tremendous leadership in Bob Stapleton as Chairman of the Board. While I will certainly miss working with the wonderful staff of USA Cycling and the many friends and acquaintances I have made over the years, after devoting the past 15 years of my life to the growth and development of USA Cycling, I think the time is right to pass the reigns to a new chief executive.”
“Steve has taken USA Cycling from a nearly bankrupt and dysfunctional assemblage to a financially sound organization that serves its members and develops winning athletes. USA Cycling is well positioned for the future,” recently appointed USA Cycling board chairman Bob Stapleton said in a press release. “We will begin a search for Steve’s replacement in January and are planning enough overlap for an effective transition and to make significant progress on key initiatives.”
Johnson joined the organization in 2000 and served in a variety of positions including executive director of the USA Cycling Development Foundation, director of athletics, and chief operating officer before being appointed by the board of directors as CEO in May 2006 when former CEO Gerard Bisceglia was dramatically fired by the board.
During his tenure with USA Cycling, Johnson oversaw the establishment of USA Cycling’s Development Foundation and the reorganization of the governing body. He was also responsible for securing the new national headquarters, as well as the development and implementation of new programs.
Johnson’s tenure during the USADA investigation
Johnson’s tenure at USA Cycling has not been without its criticism. He presided over USAC during the time between Floyd Landis’ May 2010 admissions of doping, and the 2011-2012 USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong and the U.S Postal Service team that went public in October 2012.
During that period, USA Cycling was often seen as siding with UCI in its battle with USADA over jurisdiction in the case. In August 2012, Stephen Hess, an attorney for USA Cycling, wrote that the national governing body was “bound by (UCI’s) interpretation in matters involving international doping control.” Around that time, USA Cycling also issued an affidavit outlining the UCI’s jurisdiction in anti-doping controls in international events.
In a book published earlier this year about Armstrong titled “Cycle of Lies,” Juliet Macur wrote that Dave Zabriskie, formerly of USPS and later Garmin-Sharp, told Johnson of the Postal team’s drug usage shortly after Frankie Andreu’s admission of PED use in 2006.
Macur writes in the book that Zabriskie repeatedly expressed concern to Johnson; Johnson denied any knowledge, issuing a statement that the conversations with Zabriskie had never occurred, and that Macur had never reached out to him about “these claims.”
Macur disputed Johnson’s statement, telling VeloNews that she reached out to Johnson for the book and that he initially denied knowing about the Postal doping program, but that he then called her back shortly thereafter and said he was aware of the doping but only learned of it in 2010, when Landis sent him details of the team’s doping program.
Zabriskie also contradicted Johnson’s version of events. When reached for comment by VeloNews, Zabriskie replied in an email: “What do you think he’s going to say? I told him twice before and he ignored it. You think he’s going to admit it now?”
Zabriskie retired from professional cycling at the end of the 2013 season. He served a six-month ban in 2012 after he admitted to using PEDs early in his career as part of the testimony that contributed to Armstrong’s lifetime ban.
A year of personnel changes at USA Cycling
Johnson’s departure is one of many to have taken place at USA Cycling over the last few months. In October, USAC fired longtime technical director Shawn Farrell.
Two weeks later, several other departures were made public, including Bill Kellick, director of communications, and national events manager Tony Leko.
In April, longtime USA Cycling executive Sean Petty, who served as its chief executive officer from August 2006 to March 2013, left his position, saying he would be “pursuing business interests inside and outside the sport of cycling.”
Petty changed roles in March 2013, from COO to a newly developed post — chief of domestic and international affairs — which he occupied for 13 months before stepping down.
In June, USA Cycling announced that its board of directors had elected Stapleton as its chairman, and Alex Nieroth as vice-chairman. Stapleton replaced Bill Peterson, who served as board chairman since March 2010. Nieroth replaced Mark Abramson as vice-chair.
On October 6, USA Cycling announced that the USA Cycling Professional Committee had appointed Petty as an at-large member to take the position vacated by outgoing committee member and board Chairman Bill Peterson. Subsequently, Petty was elected by the Pro Committee to also serve on the USA Cycling board of directors.
After Farrell was fired in October, he told VeloNews that many inside USA Cycling viewed Stapleton’s appointment as chairman as a step in the right direction for a federation whose leadership has been called into question since the Armstrong scandal first took shape in May 2010.
“If Bob Stapleton wants to know what’s going on, he just needs to start asking around,” Farrell said. “We used to have problems because the board would micro-manage us. They shut that down, the board is not involved in the daily running of USA Cycling, but I think now it goes too far the other way. No one is paying attention to what’s happening.”
On Tuesday, Stapleton said that the future of USA Cycling will be “an exciting and progressive time for our members, partners and employees.”
“We intend to deeply engage with our members across all disciplines, and we will intensify our support of event organizers,” Stapleton added. “The organization is on a firm financial footing, and we plan to further grow the company while continuing to develop Team USA Cycling to produce winning young athletes and Olympians.”