Former teammates and adversaries Jonathan Vaughters and Lance Armstrong, pictured before the 1999 Tour de France, have rekindled their relationship over discussions of the doping culture in cycling. Photo: AFPStripped Tour de France cham...
Former teammates and adversaries Jonathan Vaughters and Lance Armstrong, pictured before the 1999 Tour de France, have rekindled their relationship over discussions of the doping culture in cycling. Photo: AFPStripped Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and Garmin-Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters, former teammates who have spent the past decade at odds over the issue of doping in pro cycling, have renewed their long-strained relationship.
After years of racing alongside each other, beginning as juniors, Armstrong and Vaughters rode as teammates at the U.S. Postal Service team in 1998 and 1999.
Since then, the two men have spent most of the past 14 years on different sides of the doping issue, with Armstrong, and his inner circle, perfecting the science of performance-enhancing drug use — and profiting the most from it — while Vaughters launched a development team, which morphed into the Garmin squad, centered around the ethos of clean sport.
Like Frankie Andreu before him, Vaughters came clean about his drug use at U.S. Postal Service prior to Armstrong’s televised confession to Oprah Winfrey in January. Andreu admitted to doping in a September 2006 New York Times article. Vaughters, who confessed anonymously in that 2006 Times story, finally acknowledged his own drug use in an editorial, which ran in the Times in August 2012.
Along with three active Garmin riders who told the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency they had doped while members of Armstrong’s teams, Vaughters provided sworn testimony to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that he had doped as a member of the Postal Service squad. That testimony, combined with others’, resulted in a lifetime ban for Armstrong, and ultimately to his televised confession.
So it came as a surprise to Twitter users to see the two using the social media platform to have a very friendly, and very public, conversation last weekend.
After Vaughters posted a joke about sneaking the sedative Rufinol into his own drink, Armstrong, who has 3 million Twitter followers, replied, “Let us know how that goes.”
When asked about Armstrong’s comment by another Twitter user, Vaughters replied, “Nothing to see here, just two fallen angels discussing what lies beneath,” quickly followed by, “Honestly, we probably get along better now than we have in 20 years. Weird, I know.”
Armstrong quickly replied, “Dude, shhh, don’t tell anybody that!” His reply was a very public acknowledgment that, after years of defiance, which included disparaging those who spoke out against doping in cycling (including Vaughters), the disgraced Tour champ is now openly engaging with those he formerly viewed as enemies.
Both men spoke with VeloNews about their improbable reunion of sorts.
The culture of doping as common ground
Armstrong said he had initially reached out to Vaughters after reading an opinion piece he had written, posted on Cyclingnews.com, which stated that it was wrong to blame Armstrong for the culture of doping in cycling. “The fact of the matter is that it is our entire fault. We, the people who make up the world of professional cycling, are to blame,” Vaughters wrote.
“I reached out to him and thanked him for his op-ed he wrote on Cyclingnews,” Armstrong said. “I felt it was a thorough, thoughtful, and accurate account of our generation.”
Over time, the two became conversational, with the focus centered around what contribution Armstrong might be able to offer in the push to salvage pro cycling, which has seemingly bottomed out in the wake of the USADA report on the sport’s biggest star and the doping practices that brought him seven straight Tour victories, from 1999 through 2005.
“We talk here and there,” Vaughters said. “At the end of the day, I think Lance has got a lot of things to say, which could clarify a whole lot. In terms of the full download on what went on in that era of cycling, he could be big part of the solution, if he chooses to be.
“We keep in contact, and I encourage that,” he added. “I
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