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BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — Garmin-Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters, who admitted for the first time in public to doping during his pro racing career last month, listed active Garmin riders Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie and Tom Danielson as having doped during their careers in an online forum, Cyclingnews.com reported Wednesday.
Vaughters’ comments emerged as part of a discussion about German rider Jörg Jaksche, who served a one-year doping suspension for his involvement in the Operación Puerto doping scandal.
Referring to Jaksche as “JJ”, Vaughters wrote: “CVV (Vande Velde), Zabriskie, Danielson, while all clearly have a past, and from an ethical standpoint are no different from JJ, there is a very pragmatic difference. That difference is performance based. Basically, I knew from what my time at USPS, how ‘inside’ or not those riders were. Based on this, I knew their transgressions, while ethically the same as JJ’s, were much less in terms of enhancing performance. Therefore, I knew they could perform close to their enhanced level, clean.”
All three riders raced as teammates to Lance Armstrong during earlier parts of their careers: Vande Velde at U.S. Postal Service from 1998 to 2003; Zabriskie at USPS from 2001 to 2004; and Danielson at Discovery Channel in 2005.
All three joined Vaughters at Slipstream Sports, which later became Garmin, starting in 2008, along with reformed rider David Millar, who served a two-year suspension from 2004 to 2006 for admitting to the use of EPO. Since 2008, the team has taken a staunch position against doping, hiring a third-party blood-monitoring program to deter its riders from resorting to using banned substances. Vaughters has used his team as an example to young riders, fans and the pro peloton that doping is not necessary to compete at the sport’s highest level.
Requests for comment from Vaughters, Vande Velde, Zabriskie and Danielson were not immediately returned, although Vaughters confirmed with VeloNews via text message that he had indeed posted the comments in the Cyclingnews.com forum.
Vaughters, who is known to engage in spirited debates on the topic of doping via Twitter, posted a tweet Wednesday afternoon: “Anyone who thinks I’m a slick talking PR man, guess I, idiotically, proved you wrong. I’m just a dumb ass. Apologies.”
Vande Velde and Zabriskie were among four active 2008 Olympians that were not selected for the 2012 Olympic road team, leading to speculation that the broad dismissal of so many top American riders by USA Cycling was related to the riders’ past transgressions and potentially damaging testimony in the USADA case versus Lance Armstrong.
The other two 2008 Olympic team members not included on the 2012 squad were Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie.
None of the aforementioned riders have publicly commented about speculated violations of anti-doping rules during their times riding alongside Armstrong, generally answering questions with “no comment.”
For over a year Hincapie repeatedly turned away requests for comment, citing the ongoing federal investigation into the U.S. Postal team, which prosecutors dropped without indictments in February.
Vaughters’ bizarre revelation comes just 10 days after Garmin enjoyed one of the most successful stage races of its tenure at the USA Pro Challenge, with Vande Velde winning the overall, Danielson winning a stage and wearing the KOM jersey for several days, and Tyler Farrar winning two stages and the points jersey.
The Pro Challenge was the final event of Hincapie’s 20-year career, and after winning the overall, Vande Velde also hinted at the prospect of retirement, saying, “I’ve had some great wins, but nothing compares to this… to win here, in front of these crowds, and just the atmosphere around cycling right now in America, it’s great. I’d be lying if I didn’t think about just stopping today. Every athlete wants to go out on top, and I don’t think it comes too much better than this.”
When, and where, Vande Velde finishes his career remains to be seen, however it’s unlikely he — or any of the other Garmin riders — would have anticipated the need to defend themselves against doping allegations stemming with their team manager.