By Anthony Tan
TIAA-CREF manager Jonathan Vaughters, a former team-mate of Lance Armstrong on the US Postal Service team, says everyone involved in cycling is partly to blame for the situation as it stands now.
"Managers, fans, press, everyone needs to look at what they ask of riders. Think about it," he asks. "You loved Tyler Hamilton getting fourth in the Tour and winning a stage with a broken collarbone. Think about that. What message does that send? He got the job done. He didn't let anyone down."
In an interview with Cyclingnews' Gerard Knapp, Vaughters says the mentality of team managers asking to "get the job done" - in part brought on by sponsors, team-mates, fans and the media - is what he believes has led to a spate of doping abuse in recent years. He says a cyclist's behaviour needs to change, and by allowing "some humanity" back into cycling, as Vaughters puts it, this will allow for an outcome of 'we did our best' to be considered acceptable.
"If the peer pressure is to 'get the job done' because that's the implicit message, it will get done - in a bad way. Don't force athletes into decisions like that. Don't force ethical people to make poor decisions. Instead allow for some humanity. Allow for 'we did our best.'"
Regarding his own riders, who comprise a large crop of US talent, Vaughters says that if one tested positive, he would be fired immediately. But unlike other team managers, he says he wouldn't distance himself from the rider. Said Vaughters: "We stand by our riders for a long time, even if they have a bad patch of form. I never push harder than they can handle. I push to the edge, but not over."
The full story will be published on Cyclingnews later today.