The long uphill chase for the truth
The anti-doping agency started calling the riders they knew had cooperated with the federal case. Jonathan Vaughters, a former team-mate of Armstrong’s and now the team manager of the Garmin-Sharp team, decided that it was time to urge his riders to deliver on a promise. The night Landis’ accusations became public in May 2010, Vaughters had gathered his cyclists in his hotel room on a stop in the Tour of California, and said they should tell the truth if they were contacted by any authority.
He knew that Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and Christian Vande Velde – former Postal Service riders – had used performance-enhancing drugs and had hired them despite it. Vaughters himself had used performance-enhancing drugs while on the Postal Service team and had once seen Armstrong inject EPO, he said.
As early as 2004, when Tyler Hamilton had tested positive at the Olympics, Vaughters started meeting with the anti-doping agency, telling them ways to catch riders who were cheating while only hinting that he had firsthand knowledge of doping.
Vaughters continued working quietly with anti-doping officials, waiting for an opportunity to come clean with several others so it would be difficult for Armstrong to dismiss their accusations. “So I waited and waited,” Vaughters said. “It took a whole lot of patience and, frankly, it hurt me a lot over the years to hear people say I was weak for not speaking up. But I was waiting for an opening, and that opening was Floyd.”
In 2010, Vaughters said he received increasingly desperate emails from Landis, who had just come off his two-year doping suspension and could not find a job in the sport. “I felt like he was either going to commit suicide or tell all,” said Vaughters, who knew the truth about Landis’ doping.
Vaughters was right. Less than a week after Landis had lunch with Messick, Landis found himself sitting across from Tygart in a conference room, telling him everything.
This spring, riders were invited to help the anti-doping agency in its investigation. Tygart and Bill Bock, the anti-doping agency’s general counsel, wanted them to come clean. They visited rider after rider in May and June, gathering testimonies. Among the final witnesses was Hincapie, one of the most respected riders in cycling. Anti-doping officials met with him in June, just days before the anti-doping agency notified Armstrong of his potential doping violation.When Hincapie confessed and said Armstrong had doped and encouraged it, the anti-doping agency knew it had its case.
Hincapie, Leipheimer, Vande Velde and Zabriskie agreed to take their names out of consideration for the Olympics. They and Danielson agreed to a six-month suspension that would begin September 1st, after the cycling season.
In the weeks afterward, Armstrong pressed to know the names of the witnesses, but the anti-doping agency would not release them, fearing he would intimidate and silence them before they could testify at an arbitration hearing.
In August, Armstrong gave up. He said he would not fight the charges. It sent the anti-doping agency scrambling yet again to gather sworn affidavits from the riders who were supposed to provide live testimony at the arbitration hearing. They managed to do so in just over two weeks.
At the last minute, the anti-doping agency contacted one more cyclist – Michael Barry – because he had recently retired. Barry joined the others and told his doping tale. “Ultimately, I was living a lie,” Barry said last week, adding that he should have been honest from the start, but he felt trapped because he would have lost his job for coming clean.
“I guess I have to apologize to Floyd for calling him a liar,” Barry said. “Because he was telling the truth the whole time.”
– New York Times Service