Garmin trio banned after US Postal doping investigation
Garmin-Sharp riders Tom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie have made statements in relation to the news that they have been banned by USADA for their part in the US Postal doping programme. The trio rode for Postal and Discovery Channel – a later incarnation of US Postal - during their careers, but now ride for Jonathan Vaugthers’ Garmin-Sharp squad.
All three riders and Vaughters doped during their respective times as teammates of Lance Armstrong, and after giving written testimonies to USADA, all three riders have been banned.
Each rider has received a six month ban. Vande Velde has been banned from September 9 2012, and lost his results from June 4, 2004 through until April 30 2006. Danielson has been banned from September 1 2012, and loses his results from March 1 2005 until September 23, 2006. Zabriskie's suspension starts from September 1, 2012 and he loses all results from May 12, 2003, until July 31st 2006.
Levi Leipheimer (Omega Phara Quick Step), Michael Barry (Team Sky), and George Hincapie (BMC), all former US Postal riders, have also been sanctioned and banned by USADA.
In a statement released by Garmin-Sharp, the team states: “We created Slipstream Sports because we wanted to create a team where cyclists could compete 100% clean. We understood cycling’s history and we were determined to create a different environment for riders; to give them a place to come where they did not have to make the difficult and heartbreaking choices of the past."
“Today, we are very encouraged to see the incredible strides cycling has taken to clean itself up. But, while it is important to acknowledge pride in the fact that cycling has never been cleaner, we find ourselves at a critical moment in cycling's evolution: confronting its history.”
Vande Velde, fourth in the team’s debut Tour de France in 2008, turned professional with US Postal in 1998 and started the Tour the following year. He rode for Postal until the end of the 2003 season. Along with an admission to doping during his time with Postal the American also comes clean, adding that he took EPO during his stints at Liberty Seguros and at CSC under Bjarne Riis.
In USADA’s report it states that: "As described in his affidavit, he was a somewhat reluctant doper who nonetheless worked with Dr. Ferrari and submitted to his doping regimen of EPO and the “oil” for several seasons. In 2002 Vande Velde experienced a dressing down from Armstrong in Armstrong’s apartment during which Armstrong threatened Vande Velde that if he did not more strictly adhere to Michele Ferrari’s doping program that Vande Velde would lose his place on the team.”
Vande Velde statement
In his statement today, Vande Velde admits to his doping and apologies for his past.
“I love cycling, it is and always has been a huge part of who I am. As the son of a track cycling Olympian I was practically born on the bike and my dream, ever since I can remember, was always to be a professional cyclist. I have failed and I have succeeded in one of the most humbling sports in the world. And today is the most humbling moment of my life,” he said.
“As a young pro rider I competed drug free, not winning but holding my own and achieving decent results. Then, one day, I was presented with a choice that to me, at the time, seemed like the only way to continue to follow my dream at the highest level of the sport. I gave in and crossed the line, a decision that I deeply regret. I was wrong to think I didn’t have a choice – the fact is that I did, and I chose wrong. I won races before doping and after doping. Ironically, I never won while doping, I was more or less just treading water. This does not make it ok. I saw the line and I crossed it, myself. I am deeply sorry for the decisions I made in the past -- to my family, my fans, my peers, to the sport that I love and those in and out of it – I’m sorry. I always will be.”
“I decided to change what I was doing and started racing clean again well before Slipstream, but I chose to come to Slipstream because I believed in its unbending mission of clean sport. Today, I am proud of the steps that I and cycling have made to improve the future of the sport that I love so much. I am proud to be a part of an organization that implemented a no-needle policy. I am proud that I published my blood values for all of the world to see after almost reaching the podium at the 2008 Tour de France; showing first and foremost myself that it was possible to and then, confirming it for the rest of the world. I continue to be proud of the strides the sport has taken to clean itself up, and the actions our organization has taken to help shape the sport that I love.”
“I’m very sorry for the mistakes I made in my past and I know that forgiveness is a lot to ask for. I know that I have to earn it and I will try, every day, to deserve it – as I have, every day, since making the choice to compete clean. I will never give up on this sport, and I will never stop fighting for its future.”
Zabriskie, who joined Garmin in 2008, at the same time as Vande Velde and Danielson, rode with Armstrong from 2001 to 2004. According to the USADA case file he was introduced to doping by Postal team boss Johan Bruyneel. In is affidavit Zabriskie also states that he took drugs during his time with CSC. Johan Bruyneel is currently fighting USADA’s charges.
“After distinguishing myself in an important race, management presented me with drugs and instructed me on how to proceed. I was devastated. I was shocked. I had never used drugs and never intended to. I questioned, I resisted, but in the end, I felt cornered and succumbed to the pressure. After one week I stopped. I subsequently succumbed in less than a handful of confined instances never making it a systematic part of my training practices or race routines. But it happened and I couldn’t be sorrier. It was a violation – a violation not only of the code I was subject to, but my personal and moral compass that I had set out to follow. I accept full responsibility and was happy to come forward and tell USADA my whole story; I want to do my share to help bring this entire issue to the fore and ensure a safe, healthy, and clean future for cycling.
I returned to being 100% clean long before the Anti-Doping Commitment was issued for riders to sign in 2007. I was one of the first to sign. I embraced complete transparency. When Slipstream surfaced I was eager to join for all that it stands for and its unwavering commitment to clean cycling. I only wish a team like this had existed when I was a neo pro. Cycling started out as a refuge for me and I want to play my part in making it the sport I had always hoped it would be and know that it can be.”
Danielson rode for The Discover Team, a later incarnation of US Postal, in 2006 and 2007. USADA state that the rider was directed towards Johan Bruyneel by Dr Ferrari. Danielson doped during his time with Discovery, admitting to cracking under the stress and leaving the team at the end of 2007.
“I was presented with a choice that to me, did not feel like a choice at all. In the environment that I was in, it felt like something I had to do in order to continue following my dream. I crossed the line and that is something I will always be sorry for. I accept responsibility for my choices and apologize to everyone in my life for them – in and out of the sport.”