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Levi Leipheimer (US Postal) at the 2001 Vuelta a Espana
Coach was a redacted name in USADA's reasoned decision documents
Cycling coach Rick Crawford has come clean and stated that he doped Levi Leipheimer during the American rider's early career at US Postal between 2000 and 2001. Crawford confessed to USADA but due to the Statute of Limitations was not given a sanction.
Crawford, who was a redacted name in the USADA's reasoned decision documentation that stripped Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles, worked with Leipheimer until the American moved to Rabobank.
"I turned myself in for things that happened a long time ago," he told Cyclingnews.
"If not now when so I walked into their offices and told them everything."
Crawford admitted that he'd doped another rider but would not provide his name. However he did admit that it concerned a rider who had already received a life-time ban from the sport.
Crawford has worked with several riders in the sport including Kirk O’Bee, who is serving a life-time ban, Todd Wells, Chris Wherry, Willow Koerber, Tom Danielson and Chann McRae. Danielson was given a six month suspension in the fallout from the USADA report for doping, while McRae has never been sanctioned. Both individuals are part of the Slipstream set-up, where Crawford was a part-time coach for Garmin two years ago. Cyclingnews understands that Crawford emailed all of his current and former athletes informing them that he was cooperating with USADA in October.
"I'm sure the other rider's names will come up, but out of respect for him, I don't feel right naming him. He's been through hell already," Crawford told Cyclingnews.
"I told USADA everything, I mean everything and there was nothing to tell about Danielson or McRae. They were people I worked with and I worked with Chann since he was 14 years-old. I never had any influence on him in that way, or Tom Danielson."
Asked if Garmin knew about his past before his confession to USADA, Crawford responded by saying: "They knew nothing about it. This has been a deep dark secret until now and it's only now that I've started talking to the world about it. Garmin had no clue. My résumé was good and they knew nothing about it. They're running a good programme and they're doing what they say they are."
"At the time with Levi, there were all these kinds of ways of justifying it and now there's no way to justify it and I've had to deal with that for many years. I'm taking responsibility for it. Yes, it was the culture, but we chose wrong."
Crawford's working relationship ended when the rider moved to Rabobank after a top-five finish in the 2001 Vuelta.
According to Crawford Leipheimer's decision to move on was a disappointment, but it allowed him to step back and work at a collegiate level, where he says he has become a strong anti-doping advocate and never looked at doping another rider.
Cyclingnews contacted Chann McRae. Initially McRea seemed receptive to the call, which lasted less than 40 seconds. However after Crawford's name was mentioned McRae could no longer hear the interviewer on the phone and requested to be called back, saying he was in his car. Cyclingnews called back several times but no calls were answered.
Due to the statute of limitations Crawford could not be handed a ban or suspension from the sport.
"I guess the way it works, and this is all over 10 years ago, and I wasn't aware that the statute would apply to me, but I said I would accept any sanction they recommended and essentially I have. There's no sanction but there's an understanding that I will be an advocate against doping. They know that I came in on my own free will and was willing to cooperate."
When asked why he came forward post-USADA's decision and not immediately after Leipheimer ended their doping together, or in any of the intermitting years, Crawford said: "Who was coming forward then? There was no-one coming forward in 2001. First of all this was my livelihood. I have four sons I'm raising. Do I wish I'd come forward sooner? Of course I do. I'm not saying what I did was right, but I take full responsibility. I didn't behave correctly and I should never have done this in the first place and I should have turned myself in back in 2001.
"There's a window now and it won't be open forever, and I'm not proud of what I did. I'm just trying to do the right thing now. I don't expect everyone to understand but I'm here and I'm trying to do the right thing."