Thomas Dekker is now two and half years into his return to the top level of world cycling with Garmin Sharp. Banned from the sport between July 2009 and 2011 Dekker made his return in the latter half of 2011 when he was offered a second chance with Jonathan Vaughters' Garmin Sharp squad.
At a team camp in 2011 Vaughters' confirmed that Dekker's signing was on the back of a myriad of testing that convinced him that Dekker was clean. He also re-stated his ethical stance on signing riders with a tarnished past.
"Should I turn down an athlete who's in the top five per cent of guys from a physiological standpoint because he got caught [doping] when many others in his generation didn't get caught? That's a wrong decision," said Vaughters. "It is ethically wrong to toss aside someone for something they did because they got caught, but to welcome people who've done the same thing in their past and simply didn't get caught. It's an attitude that's taken far too often in cycling.
"He [Dekker] was scared, he came here [to a late-2011 training camp] without a contract at the beginning of camp," continued Vaughters. "He stood up in front of the team and said this is what I did and it was wrong, and I want a second chance. It's not an easy thing to do."
Dekker told Cyclingnews recently that over the last three years "it was great to come back in the sport, especially in a team like Garmin Sharp, a really open minded team [with] lots of nice guys."
Although Dekker had a hard time in 2013, with results below his own expectations, a broken bone below his patella, and as he struggled to get back to his former race weight, he believes that 2014 will be bigger and better as he sets his sights on a Tour de France berth.
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