Garmin-Sharp responds to USADA case with rider statements

Danielson, Vande Velde and Zabriskie address USADA case

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Top American team Garmin-Sharp issued a statement Wednesday addressing the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case against Lance Armstrong — a case that includes testimony from three active Garmin riders as well as its team manager.

Of the 11 former Postal Service riders to have provided evidence to USADA, Tom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie ride for the Garmin squad, which is managed by a fourth former team member to have testified before USADA, Slipstream Sports president Jonathan Vaughters.

Ascending to cycling’s top echelon in 2008, Vaughters built the team around a firm anti-doping stance, hiring riders who subscribed to his “clean team” ethos, regardless of their past, including David Millar, who had served a two-year ban after admitting EPO use.

Among the riders who joined the team in its first year were Danielson, Vande Velde, Zabriskie, Millar, Tyler Farrar and Ryder Hesjedal. All six men are still members of the team.

“The founding concepts of Slipstream Sports were put in place for riders committed to competing clean during their time at Slipstream Sports,” the team statement reads. “
While Christian, David and Tom made their mistakes the better part of a decade ago, they also made the choice to stop.”

The news that the three active riders had doped earlier in their career does not come as a major revelation.

Vande Velde and Zabriskie were two of four former Olympians that requested USA Cycling remove them from consideration for this year’s Olympic selection. The other two, Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie, also testified in the USADA investigation.

Then, in August, after his own written confession ran in The New York Times, Vaughters outed his riders in an online forum, writing that all three “clearly had a past.”

In its case file material released today, sworn testimony from Vande Velde includes a confrontation between Vande Velde, Armstrong and Dr. Michele Ferrari, where “Armstrong made it very clear to Vande Velde that if he did not shape up and conform to Ferrari’s doping program that Vande Velde would soon be kicked off the team.”

Danielson also testified that Armstrong introduced him to Ferrari in 2005, with Ferrari providing him with advice regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs.

USADA’s material also includes a sworn affidavit, in which Zabriskie describes Johan Bruyneel’s role in convincing him to use doping products, as well as Zabriskie admitting to having sung a song on the team bus, in 2002, changing the lyrics of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” to, “EPO all in my veins/Lately thing just don’t seem the same/Acting funny, but I don’t know why/Excuse me, while I pass this guy.”

Following, in alphabetical order, are statements from Tom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie, along with a statement from Slipstream Sports management.

Tom Danielson full statement:
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a professional cyclist. It has always been my dream. Along the road to following my dream, I’ve had several ups and downs, but I stuck with it because I love the sport. I never set out thinking I would cross a line, I set out simply wanting to compete, to race my bike and do what I love. And that is exactly what I did, clean. Then, after years of doing things the right way, I was presented with a choice that, to me, did not feel like a choice at all. In the environment that I was in, it felt like something I had to do in order to continue following my dream. I crossed the line, and that is something I will always be sorry for. I accept responsibility for my choices and apologize to everyone in my life for them — in and out of the sport.

When I heard about the team Jonathan Vaughters was creating, I knew that his team was exactly what cycling needed — it was exactly what I needed and I wanted to be a part of it. Even though I made the choice to compete clean before Slipstream’s inception, I’ve seen both worlds, and I believe that today, cycling is in a good place, and that organizations like Slipstream have helped change the sport. I believe, too, that it’s time to confront cycling’s past, so that we can continue to build its future. That’s what I’ve done, and I promise it’s what I’ll continue to do.

Christian Vande Velde:
I love cycling, it is and always has been a huge part of who I am. As the son of a track cycling Olympian I was practically born on the bike and my dream, ever since I can remember, was always to be a professional cyclist. I have failed and I have succeeded in one of the most humbling sports in the world. And today is the most humbling moment of my life. 

As a young pro rider I competed drug free, not winning but holding my own and achieving decent results. Then, one day, I was presented with a choice that to me, at the time, seemed like the only way to continue to follow my dream at the highest level of the sport. I gave in and crossed the line, a decision that I deeply regret. I was wrong to think I didn’t have a choice — the fact is that I did, and I chose wrong. I won races before doping and after doping. Ironically, I never won while doping; I was more or less just treading water. This does not make it ok. I saw the line and I crossed it, myself. I am deeply sorry for the decisions I made in the past — to my family, my fans, my peers, to the sport that I love and those in and out of it, I’m sorry. I always will be. 

I decided to change what I was doing and started racing clean again well before Slipstream, but I chose to come to Slipstream because I believed in its unbending mission of clean sport. Today, I am proud of the steps that I and cycling have made to improve the future of the sport that I love so much. I am proud to be a part of an organization that implemented a no-needle policy. I am proud that I published my blood values for all of the world to see after almost reaching the podium at the 2008 Tour de France; showing first and foremost myself that it was possible to and then, confirming it for the rest of the world. I continue to be proud of the strides the sport has taken to clean itself up, and the actions our organization has taken to help shape the sport that I love. 

We’re in a good place now, young riders of the new generation have not had to face the choices that I did, and this needs to continue. By looking at the mistakes of cycling’s history, we have an opportunity to continue to shape its future.

I’m very sorry for the mistakes I made in my past and I know that forgiveness is a lot to ask for. I know that I have to earn it and I will try, every day, to deserve it — as I have, every day, since making the choice to compete clean. I will never give up on this sport, and I will never stop fighting for its future.

David Zabriskie:
Cycling was a refuge for me. Long, hard training rides were cathartic and provided an escape from the difficult home life associated with a parent with an addiction. My father had a long history of substance use and addiction. Seeing what happened to my father from his substance abuse, I vowed never to take drugs. I viewed cycling as a healthy and wholesome outlet that would keep me far away from a world I abhorred.

In 1996, soon after joining a local cycling club and winning a state championship, I qualified to participate in training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

After winning the GP Des Nation under-23 category race in 2000, I was invited onto a pro-level team. Ironically, the sport I had turned to for escaping drugs turned out to be rampant with doping. I chose not to focus on that. I was young, everyone was telling me I had a great future, and I knew I could do it clean. From the beginning, I always had.

After distinguishing myself in an important race, management presented me with drugs and instructed me on how to proceed. I was devastated. I was shocked. I had never used drugs and never intended to. I questioned, I resisted, but in the end, I felt cornered and succumbed to the pressure.

After one week I stopped. I subsequently succumbed in less than a handful of confined instances never making it a systematic part of my training practices or race routines. But it happened and I couldn’t be sorrier. It was a violation — a violation not only of the code I was subject to, but my personal and moral compass that I had set out to follow. I accept full responsibility and was happy to come forward and tell USADA my whole story; I want to do my share to help bring this entire issue to the fore and ensure a safe, healthy, and clean future for cycling.

I returned to being 100-percent clean long before the Anti-Doping Commitment was issued for riders to sign in 2007. I was one of the first to sign. I embraced complete transparency. When Slipstream surfaced I was eager to join for all that it stands for and its unwavering commitment to clean cycling. I only wish a team like this had existed when I was a neo-pro. Cycling started out as a refuge for me and I want to play my part in making it the sport I had always hoped it would be and know that it can be.

Statement from Slipstream Sports:
We created Slipstream Sports because we wanted to create a team where cyclists could compete 100-percent clean. We understood cycling’s history and we were determined to create a different environment for riders; to give them a place to come where they did not have to make the difficult and heartbreaking choices of the past. We built our organization based on the core values of honesty, fairness and optimism. We built it on the belief in our ability to contribute to changing the sport’s future through a persistent commitment to the present. We implemented the most progressive independent anti-doping system in all of professional sport and the first-ever no-needle policy in professional cycling. We made anti-doping not just a strict policy and mission, but part of every conversation.

Today, we are very encouraged to see the incredible strides cycling has taken to clean itself up. But, while it is important to acknowledge pride in the fact that cycling has never been cleaner, we find ourselves at a critical moment in cycling’s evolution: confronting its history.

The founding concepts of Slipstream Sports were put in place for riders committed to competing clean during their time at Slipstream Sports. Every athlete who comes to us knows exactly who we are and what we stand for and when they come here, they make the choice to compete 100-percent clean.

While Christian, David and Tom made their mistakes the better part of a decade ago, they also made the choice to stop. To change what they were doing. To face the past, in their own way, and to start competing clean. In January 2008, they made another important choice — the choice to join our organization — because they believed in our mission and wanted a better future for the sport they love.

They have made another brave choice, to speak honestly and openly with the appropriate authorities, to confront their own pasts and cycling’s past and to accept the consequences, all in a continued effort to help the sport evolve.

Nothing can erase what has happened in cycling’s history, but we can learn from it. We can look back and say: never again. We can look forward to the crop of young athletes coming up not just on our team but also on other teams and have confidence that the future of the sport is here.

Slipstream Sports, the small team that took to the ProTour ranks in 2008 with a huge anti-doping mission, continues to help shape cycling’s future. We have consistently placed riders in the top 10 of the Tour de France every year since our inception, clean. In 2011, we won Paris-Roubaix, clean. We won our first grand tour in 2012, clean. We won the 2012 USA Pro Challenge, clean. But for Slipstream, it’s never been about winning. The real victory is showing the world that clean sport is a reality, and we are devoted to it. We firmly believe that these moments, and all the moments where we don’t win, but animate racing around the world, speak volumes about where the sport is today. Cycling has never been cleaner and we will work, every day, to help it continue to progress.

We support and believe in Christian, David and Tom, 100 percent. By coming forward and sharing their history, they have lived up to the promise that we as an organization made to the world when we founded Slipstream. We hope that fans and sponsors throughout the world can understand that despite the mistakes they made in their pasts, they are a critical part of the future. We hope you can believe, as we do, that this step, while painful, contributes to building a better future.

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