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USADA chief calls clean rider a "victim"
USADA chief Travis Tygart has publicly praised former US Postal Service rider Scott Mercier for refusing to take doping products during his career.
In 2011 Mercier claimed he was offered testosterone by a team doctor but refused to take the drugs and later quit professional cycling. Tyler Hamilton substantiated Mercier's claims in his book 'The Secret Race', revealing details on how he doped during his time at the US Postal Service team and during the rest of his career.
According to the Daily Sentinel newspaper in Grand Junction, Colorado, where Mercier now owns a restaurant and works as a financial advisor, Tygart contacted Mercier after reading an advance copy of Hamilton's book.
Tygart told the Daily Sentinel that Mercier is a key voice in the discussion about doping, saying: “what he represents and who he represents is really, really important.”
“It’s easy for the media and others to say, ‘Well, who cares? They all do it. And, should we hold any of them accountable because they all did it?’ That’s not true,” Tygart said.
“There were victims, and the clean athletes are the ones that walked away from it, unfortunately prematurely, because they were unwilling to sacrifice their health just in order to be competitive.”
“What’s gotten lost in the shuffle, especially in the mainstream media, are the victims. We, USADA, stand in the shoes of the victim, and they rely on us to protect their rights and to validate to some extent the decision they’ve made not to use these dangerous drugs in order to cheat sport. And so their voice has sort of just been thrown under the bus, and they’re the most important voice behind what we do and why we’re here."
“Hearing from (Mercier) and speaking with a lot of others who have talked to us or we’ve been in touch with has just given reassurance that athletes care a lot about this issue. And the clean athletes out there aren’t really controlling the discussion or even really having any voice in the discussion. It’s the dirty athletes and the team behind this conspiracy that has sort of led the discussion, and that’s unfortunate.”
Mercier admitted that he perpetuated the omerta in professional cycling by not speaking out sooner but has now called a revolution in the way the sport is governed. “Cycling has reached a tipping point. It is either going to be honest and open regarding its sordid history of doping and grow and thrive, or it will continue to deny and distract,” he wrote in an op-ed comment published by several media.
“The time has come for the doors of secrecy to be kicked open. It’s time for a revolution and the overthrow of the tyrannical leadership of McQuaid and Verbruggen. I urge the board members of the UCI to take control of the sport and start with a clean slate. This is the only way cycling can truly grow on a global scale.”