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Colorado Mesa University relinquishes "second chance"
Cycling coach Rick Crawford has been released from his position at Colorado Mesa University after the school learned new information about Crawford's previous involvement in helping athletes to dope.
Earlier this month, Crawford admitted to helping Levi Leipheimer to use performance enhancing drugs between 1999 and 2001, and CMU officials believed that Crawford had disclosed all of his anti-doping rule violations to them and the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Crawford was allowed to remain in his post under the supervision of CMU cycling director Scott Mercier after he agreed to perform 500 hours of community service in anti-doping education and would agree to harsher penalties should he violate another anti-doping rule.
However, the university said that new information that "involved an instance(s) of a drug-related infraction(s) that occurred while Crawford was in Durango" led to his dismissal today.
“It is incredibly disappointing,” said Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster. “It is just too bad but our commitment remains to support our student-athletes and to giving them the most positive college experience possible.”
Mercier, an out-spoken anti-doping advocate who was a part of the US Postal Service team until 1997, ended his own career when it became apparent that doping would be the only way to survive in the peloton. He was appointed to his post as cycling director in the wake of the links between Crawford and doping, and is disappointed that he had to let Crawford go.
“We believed it was important that Rick Crawford have a second chance but the information we have recently received removed that option,” Mercier said. “We remain committed to running a clean program and to becoming a leader in endurance athletics, particularly cycling.”
Speaking to Cyclingnews, Mercier said he considered Crawford a friend, and that the team's success this year was largely due to Crawford's efforts, but that "it's unfortunate for the kids, but in the long run it will help the college and the team."
The new allegations come from a rider, but Mercier would only say the rider worked with Crawford between 2000 and 2006, and would not confirm whether nor not the allegations of doping fall inside or outside the eight-year statute of limitations.
He compared Crawford's situation to that of cycling at large, and called for more honesty and transparency from the bottom up to the UCI itself. "What irks me is that it appears we continue to have half truths and not the whole truth. I don't believe, and my colleagues don't believe, that the entire peloton cleaned up in 2006," he said, referring to the statements of the riders banned for their testimony against Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team. "If you'e going to come clean, come completely clean."
Replacing those who cannot fully disclose their doping past is necessary, including the leadership at the UCI, but Mercier says that there is a place for forgiveness, which is what he tried to show to Crawford. "It's a sad situation, and I wish it didn't have to end this way, but we have to protect the school and the kids."
The school is launching a nationwide search to replace Crawford with the support of Foster, who has been supportive of the program. Patrick Rostel, the reigning collegiate criterium champion, will step in as interim coach until a replacement can be found.