Jonathan Vaughters was a team-mate of Lance Armstrong on the US Postal team during the 1999 Tour de France. In the light of L'Equipe's allegations that Armstrong used EPO during that Tour, Vaughters tells Gerard Knapp what he did - and didn't - see.
It was two weeks before the 1999 Tour de France, and a young American rider asked his director sportif if he had anything to worry about.
The US Postal Service rider - and team-mate of Lance Armstrong - was nervous. Jonathan Vaughters said he had watched the whole Festina debacle of the previous Tour de France, and he didn't want to spend a week in a French gaol if the police carried out sweeping raids on the peloton and arrested riders based on circumstantial evidence.
"I was this skinny guy," he said this week. "I didn't want to end up being the girlfriend of some gendarme," he told Cyclingnews.
"I was thinking back (to that time) and I remember I could feel that we (USPS) were going to be real contenders for the Tour. So I called Johan (Bruyneel) and asked him if there was anything I should be worried about. He assured me and said, 'we're not going to be doing any of that (doping)'. Basically, he said there was none of that (in the team). There would be nothing to worry about."
Still, it was Vaughters himself who received a fright at the pre-Tour medical tests, as his hematocrit posted a 51 percent reading, above the UCI's limit of 50 percent, but still under his special dispensation of 52 percent. (Frequent testing had shown that Vaughters - like many good climbers - have naturally high hematocrit levels and they are granted dispensation from doctors.)
"I'd never tested (at a race) above 50 percent, except before the start of the '99 Tour," he said. "I told the team doctor 'don't worry, I've got a certificate, I've got a hall-pass for this'," he recalled. "But the doctor said it wasn't me they were worried about, it was that the whole team was very close (to the 50 percent limit)."
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