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How to Deal With the Problem of Doping
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 6/25/2004
How to Deal With the Problem of Doping
 

Several months ago, a good friend and young pro rider I knew told me he was retiring from his very promising pro career. He told me several years ago when we had met that he would only race clean, and if he was ever offered performance drugs he would quit. When it happened he quit.

Later this happened again. Once may be serendipity, twice got my attention.

As I went along going to races I heard disparaging rumors about many riders all of who were very anti drug and not shy about making a point of it. Some I would consider friends. To the best of my knowledge they are clean; I donít have any reason to believe otherwise. But the rumors, they never stopped. In time I heard that one rider (I knew to be clean) was denied a contract with a Div I team on the strength of baseless rumors. Hah! And now, Monsieur LeBlanc would reduce entrance to le Tour on the basis of rumor, innuendo, or accusation.

Once a friend accused me of being ďSoft on Drugs,Ē He said, ďGet your head out of the sand, all the peloton is on the juice.Ē I asked what about another mutual friend, a pro, his answer was, ďObviously not, as he isnít winning races.Ē It is an odd and unbelievable world where winning is equated with using drugs. It is an even odder world where rumor and winning make you appear to be a cheat.

Generalities are never true; as there are always exceptions. I donít believe, that all riders cheat, nor all teams. I apply the often held result of studies in the past; that 80% keep the rules, 2% criminal, always break the rules; and the remaining 18% are easily swayed and influenced by the criminal 2% to act out of weakness. You might remember it being stated that 98% of all crime is committed by 5% of the people.

As time went by I spoke with a few team doctors, one in Europe, he told me he was ordered by one of the teamís management to ďHelp the riders perform better.Ē He wouldnít dope riders, and as a result was dismissed from the team.

Iím taking away a few viewpoints from my experiences in the last few years.
First it is always the riders and rarely those that encourage, extort, provide, demand, or make riders take performance drugs who pay the price. If any one should it is the D.S.ís, the Managers, coaches and trainers who should pay; not only are they poisoning the riders but the sport itself.

Second, the rumors & innuendo of the press, over eager prosecutors and officials who leak court documents to the press and operate by trying a case in the court of public opinion are without conscience. They donít seek to find and bring the truth to the public; they only muckrake to create sensation and sell more papers. May they be damned for it, and they damn well know who they are.

Third, far too many of us, without an inkling of the truth of the latest piece of innuendo or gossip (whether from the tabloid press or on some rumor line) are far too eager to carry a rumor and forward it on. In all honesty we have no idea if it is true or not. This as shown above is rarely helpful to the sport or the truth, or for that matter finding the truth. It sometimes has a tragic and damaging effect on a rider or a team.

The fact is none of us know how bad the scene is in pro-cycling; but all of the above only makes it harder to find out.

Where I come from a man is innocent until he is PROVEN guilty. I believe a man has a right to his good name and reputation until it can be proved he has done some wrong. Would it be too much to just state the charges and wait for the verdict?

Out of all this I believe that it will take riders coming forward and demand a fair playing field and those that provide and demand riders take drugs be removed from any connection to the sport for life. Cheaters are nothing more than thieves stealing the honest win from riders who are racing clean. The act of being a thief is an open admission that you could not honestly earn the victory your self.

All the exploits of riders become meaningless under the pall of cheating; it will take a movement of riders and fans to demand that there is a level playing field. It will take a major change in the official organizations to work with the riders who are clean and see they and their careers are protected if they come forward. This is not a problem affecting cycling alone; it effects all sports, letís be clear about that. I donít believe all riders or are on the juice, nor that it is a majority; it is rare that any group is all bad, but then that's just my opinion. If it were 20% then that is 20% too many, but no doubt, that there is a culture of tragedy that must be confronted.

This article by Matt Decanio appeared in Race Listings.com a few weeks ago. Matt has allowed the Daily Peloton to publish it. If you read it (and you should) you will get a glimpse into Mattís experiences, his own personal Hell, and some solid advice on how you can deal with the problem of doping. Currently Matt is working with a few others to create a new pro team that will race clean.

How to deal with the problem of doping

As for some of you readers you might have heard my name every once in a while, you might have read some of my past articles in USA Cycling that I got banned while writing. Some of you might now me as a loud mouth punk, or however you like to call me. Or you might of caught a good side of me, setting a world cycling record up Mt. Lemmon, donating a month of my meager $1500 a month salary to the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault. But nobody can doubt my experience, and things I have seen and been through. There is no reason to lie, because in this article you will read about one of the reasons I am not racing anymore.

Doping was first introduced to me in 1997 when I joined G.S. Filati Alessandra. I got an invitation to join the team at the age of 20 after being the top American finisher at the first ever U-23 World Championships in Lugano, Switzerland. On the National Team we knew of the problem, we even saw large syringes painted on the roads of the world championships, with the words, ďVia EPOĒ or something in Italian.

We thought it was hilarious, but we were all clean on the good old US Team, led by Knickman.† The best man who ever came to help the USA Cycling Team. Knickman pulled all the GTís out of storage that were there for sponsorship and gave them to riders like myself, instead of keeping them clean so that they could be sold at the end of the year.† Knickman was our hero coming up, and he taught us that we couldnít always win clean, but it is possible.

So I went to the U-23 Team in Italy, and the first night in the building I noticed a lot of needles around the house and a lot of IVís going into arms. Soon I was to realise that 95 percent of my team was on EPO and HGH. If you were 19 they didnít want you to take drugs, only when you turned 20 did they want you to stick needles in your arm. So as a 20 year old American who didnít even speak the language and being 2000 miles away from my family it was quite a predicament to be in. I had to draw on a lot of inner strength to avoid all the drugs.

The GM would scream at us at the races that the problem with our team was that we werenít taking enough medicine. He said, ďThe guys last year took HGH and they finished in the front, you guys need to take HGH!Ē I pretended like I didnít understand the Italian but I understood it perfectly. Guys started cracking, soon all the riders were excepting the silver refrigerated bags filled with EPO at the end of the race weekend. I am sure some who read this might think this was heaven. Free EPO and HGH! But to me it was a living hell. And if we didnít win the abuse continued on our team.

Our GM would stop paying our bills on time at our team restaurant and have the chef cook us meals last. We would sit there for 4 hours after the race, maybe longer waiting to eat our food. The chef always made sure we ate last. Our in house cook would come in at 6am to make lots of noise and wake us early in the morning. And then ask us what we wanted for lunch, and start asking us what we were going to do for training. I was never paid, and I was given a steel bike while the rest of the team had aluminum.

We had a Russian on our team and he hated all the drugs too. They would grab him and demand that he take Glucose injections. Our General Managerís son in law gave him an IV drip. I can remember seeing a large bubble of air going through the IV and into his vein. The Russian cringed in severe pain, but this was normal and this was the way they treated us.† They kept us locked up in the Filati Alessandra Fabric Factory at night. It sucked. But at the same time I was happy to have the experience to see Italy and ride to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and see the sights of Florence. But it was really a sad time for me.

There were times I couldnít even stay with my teammates during training rides. The funny thing was at the February camp I could drop them all and a month later after they cycled the EPO they would drop me for 5 minutes on all the climbs. I did my best and finished in the top 15 a couple of times, but that was about the best I could do, I thought it was exceptional considering 120 started and about 15 would finish and I was a clean racer. I found more success with the National Team when I would leave for the Peace Race or longer stage races. For some reason the drugs the competition was taking seemed to have a greater effect in one day races. In the longer races I could beat them and I finished 28th Overall in the Peace Race, in the 2nd best young rider category.

But all and all the drugs and seeing what they were doing were taking its effect. So one training ride I decided to make a left and take drugs, or make a right and go home to America and quit racing. I decided to make a right and I went back to my team apartment in Italy and quit racing.

So I came back to the states and took a job in Boone, NC. I worked at a summer camp, and rode just for fun. Then I moved to Florida to sell jewelry, and found myself at break dance clubs, most of the times.† I didnít even consider riding bikes again until I was enrolled in Appalachian State University in 1998. I made friends with some of the riders on the collegiate team and I started to hang out with them and eat on Thursdays. It was a typical college racing thing to do and it made biking fun again. I soon joined the team with them and I won my first race. Soon I was back on the fast track after finishing 2nd in Collegiate Nats, and then again 2nd at U-23 nats. I found a spot back on the National Team this time with Noel Dejonkheere. It was a whole new program and I missed the old glory days with Knickman and living in Germany. Belgium was hard and less fun, but I worked hard and Noel went to bat for me and after finishing 17th in the World U-23 Time Trial Championships, I got selected for Linda McCartney.

So I moved to Europe in the spring of 2000.† I was still determined to race clean in Europe. I found the racing scene to be different now because the drugs were a big secret, but they were still there. Now nobody talked about it, and it was kind of like, ďDrugs are illegal and this is a drug free team, but you need to be professional and do what it takes to win.Ē Letís put it this way, the reason Pascal Richard had to stop the Giro wasnít from a stomach virus, it was because he had something in his system that would test positive. Our team was getting mad at him all the time for leaving his EPO in our truck. But Pascal was old school and believed he had the right because the sport was too hard. He would sometimes keep me up at night with his blood spinners. He had shots for everything including his penis which he injected for 4 hour erections. Drugs were definitely ruling his life, but that was the scene. A rock star life and he liked sleeping with 14 different girls during the Giro, having a mistress, and a wife. He cracked one of my teammates with all his drama.† My teammate threw the phone at him and told him to get his life strengthened out.

Racing was a crazy world in Europe, it was hard. Sometimes our team would do a random blood spin after dinner to make sure everyoneís blood wasnít too thick. If it was they would have to drain 200 ml (a Coke can) out and pour it down the sink. There was nothing glamorous going on behind closed doors believe me. I was still able to do well, finishing in the top 40 Overall in the Tour of Denmark. At one point between races my teammate had gone down to Spain to buy 27 vials of EPO and had them in my refrigerator, it scared me that the police would find them.

I would go to a small hotel in the Pyrenees and do incredibly hard training rides. I remember doing a 9:45 minute ride that crested 14 Cols. I wanted to beat the drugs so badly. I remember just listening to my Eminem CD all the time, trying to forget about the world. I would make little results that made me really happy, and I was happy racing clean. It sucked not getting paid anything, but I enjoyed racing against the best in the world. But my results at the end of the year did not secure me a contract so I had to come back to the states.

Once back in the states I joined Saturn. Unfortunately for me, Saturn was almost as bad as my European Teams. It was a lot more hidden but I was seeing the signs of doping going on, during my time on Saturn. And then doubt was lifted after I helped administer an IV before an important time trial. Yeah, boys! Way to needles in America. F$%king losers! I stayed clean no matter what, and soon decided to switch back to my old favorite director and what I thought would be the cleanest team I could find Prime Alliance.

Sure enough PA was about as clean as it got, and Tom Irvine was the best sponsor I could find. I signed with Prime Alliance for $18k, even with Saturn offering me $20k. I donít believe everyone was clean but I would say 95 percent of us were. Mainly I drew strength from Danny Pate, Creed, Jonas, Svein Tuft, and Candelario. We stuck together tight as a clean bike racing unit and constantly made fun of all the dopers as often as possible to keep us sane.

We did awesome too. Danny won Altoona Clean, after his high of winning the Worlds Clean, and I took the yellow jersey Altoona and in Beauce against Michael Rodgers and Mapei.† After he beat me in the Time Trial, I lost it however and this is where I believe I got black listed.† After he won I rode up to Mapei and with all the aggression I had built up over the years of being cheated, I screamed, ďHEY, I am racing here clean, how about you!Ē† The Italians bitched and moaned that they were clean racers, but I had a hard time believing any of the words considering that over 90 percent of my U-23 team was doped to the gills, why would they stop when the reached the pro level?† Well I had to settle with 2nd, but it was good for me, and I still have my yellow jersey to hang on the wall.

Then came the season of 2003; I had a heart break in the summer of 2002, and I started smoking a lot of marijuana. I was slipping as a person and a racer. I had just bought a new CLK 430 Mercedes, had it pimped out with 19ís and I was living the fast life in Los Angeles.† I was finally deciding that I was just going to give into the drugs and be a big rock star euro pro. So I decided to take EPO just before Housatonic, along with Testosterone patches.†

I was so disappointed in myself, I dropped out of Housatonic during the circuit race, and refused to contest any of the stages. I only went to the front to ride for Clinger, and I felt good but not as great as I thought. I donít think I took enough, but it didnít matter.† I was a cheater and I couldnít look myself the same in the mirror.

I had lost a lot of mental strength.† Not only that but I wasnít taking racing serious anymore either.† I hated racing.† I stayed high the entire year, and found myself going out all night in Los Angeles, racing other Porsches at 140 mph on the 405; just doing anything and everything out of control.† Before San Fran, I was doing my training rides at 3am.† I was going up and down Mulholland Drive passing cars at 55mph going down the canyons in the pitch black. The devil had me and it was ridiculous. I was suicidal, I wanted to lock myself in the garage and turn my car on and kill myself listening to Ozzy Osborne, but I couldnít do that to my roommates. I started getting crazy tattoos like a machine gun on my forearm. Everything was too much, I felt like everything I had loved had caused me so much pain. Finally I had enough and I couldnít finish any race and just wanted my career to be over. I finished up the season as clean as I could, even though I was now tainted, and barely made it alive out of Los Angeles, back to my parents in Virginia.

I left LA at 12:30 at night flying across through the desert, passing 18 wheelers on the shoulder.† I was breaking down crying, I felt like my world was over. I called a close friend to help me out, who rides the Tour. But, it was up to me to save myself. The one thing I remember after screaming and yelling how I hated everything and the world, was seeing a shooting star. Right then and there I felt like I had an angel watching over me, and that somehow even with all the pain, I was doing the right thing.

There I cleaned up my life and started school and http://www.iturnpro.com. My goal was to teach racers to win clean. I still am a believer that you can win bike races clean, as I once did. I won a NRC, had the yellow in Altoona, and had the yellow in UCI G.P. Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce absolutely clean.

I want everyone to know, stick to your guns and morals and race clean. The world has too much suffering and there is already too much corruption to do this to our sport. Money and fame isnít anything.

What matters at the end of the day, is keeping it real; and being able to look yourself in the mirror. You can become a pro clean and you can race as a clean racer.

Donít take drugs, they will ruin your friendships, your relationships, and your health. I have seen skeletal changes in my friends; they are going bald, growing hair on there back. They have gotten divorced, their life is a f#$king nightmare.

DONíT DO IT.† YOU CAN WIN THE TOUR DE FRANCE CLEAN. SOMEWHERE THERE IS SOMEONE WHO CAN DO IT.

Never give up hope and turn your back to the devil every time he offers. Get a smart coach, and use altitude training and hard work. Donít be afraid to face the challenge. Just remember that I believe you can do it, and I believe I can also win clean. I might come back to racing again, and if I do I will race clean until I die. So that will be 2 of us for sure.

Peace Out
Matt DeCanio
Matt is now engaged in a project to start a new Pro Team. He can be contacted at I turn pro .com.

About Iturnpro.com
Iturnpro.com was founded by Matt DeCanio and Justin Spinelli in December of 2003 Our goal is to reach athletes around the world and to deliver world class coaching. Taking average riders and turning them into Pros through intense training programs and Pro-tips. We are paving the way for a new kind of coaching company that follows the athletes from day one until they sign their first pro contract. We are the first coaching company to have exclusive rights with Sotox Sports Agency and to offer our customers their very own customer profile pages to fill out bios, post photos, and post results for all to see. Our company moto is, "Failure is not an Option!" and we live by that everyday. Even if you don't become a pro from our training, we aim to help you become a stronger
person. It is all about hard work, and testing your limits. We hope you decide to become part of the ITPteam. http://www.iturnpro.com/


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