Questions for Jonathan Vaughters about White’s firing and the Trent Lowe/Luis Del Moral situation
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Questions for Jonathan Vaughters about White’s firing and the Trent Lowe/Luis Del Moral situation

by Shane Stokes at 12:46 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
‘A slap on the wrist is not enough; we acted in the only way that we felt was appropriate’’

Jonathan VaughtersYesterday was one of the most unusual days in the existence of the Garmin-Cervélo team. Early on, it won the first World Tour race of the year when Cameron Meyer and the squad successfully defended his lead in the Santos Tour Down Under.

Soon after the finish, though, the mood was dampened considerably when team CEO Jonathan Vaughters arrived bearing very unexpected news. Rather than being there to celebrate the win – although he does describe the day as being a very important one for the team – he had flown to Australia with a difficult task at hand. Namely, that of firing longtime chief directeur sportif Matt White.

White has long been an integral part of the team and has a good working relationship with many of the riders. However Garmin-Cervelo announced yesterday that he had made a crucial error. In April 2009 he sent the rider Trent Lowe for tests at the Sports Institute of Valencia, near where the Australian rider lived. He had been struggling with illness and was off form, and he and White decided to have some assessments done by the doctor Luis Garcia del Moral.

Two issues meant that was a bad idea: one was the team’s insistence that medical consultations with people outside the team’s circle were not permitted, at least without receiving full clearance. The second - and more serious - problem was that Del Moral had been linked to alleged doping practices, and for any Garmin rider to visit him jarred with the team’s oft-stated ethical standards.

Describing it as a stupid error rather than something more serious, Vaughters said that he regretted having to fire White, but that after consulting the board of directors of the team, that he had little choice.

Rather than settling things, this led to more questions amongst journalists and followers of the sport. Why did it take so long for this to surface? If it was a stupid error and nothing more, was the team taking the right course of action in firing White? And, crucially, could any other riders of the team have also gone to the same doctor?

Vaughters spoke to VeloNation from Australia about these issues, giving his answers to these important questions.

VeloNation: First off, Jonathan, some people are speculating that this could be partly related to rumours that Matt White intends moving to the planned new Australian team Green Edge at the end of the season, possibly taking some of the young Garmin-Cervélo riders with him. Is that in any way a factor in this decision to fire him?

Jonathan Vaughters: No…the reality of the situation is that it has nothing to do with that. It’s solely related to the issue stated today…the decision was based on one thing and one thing only.

VN: A lot of people are asking why this has only surfaced now, given that the matter happened in April 2009. Why the delay?

JV: Because it only came to our attention recently. I don’t know why Trent Lowe decided to bring this up after so many months, you’ll have to ask him that. In fact he never told me directly, he emailed me and said it. 

VN:
Is there any possibility that any other riders from the team also went to see this doctor?

JV: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not. We conducted a very thorough search of our server records and our phone records. Whitey has a team email account and a team phone, and there is absolutely zero evidence or anything that he ever referred anyone else to Del Moral.

This was simply that Trent was the only rider who we had that lived in Valencia. It was a pragmatic decision because Del Moral’s government-funded sports clinic was in Valencia, Trent lived in Valencia. He was struggling with a lot of different issues. Matt was trying to send Trent there to have a VO2 max test, to have a body composition test to figure out what those issues were. There is nothing more than that.

Sadly, it was not a decision that I approve of or any of our medical staff approve of. That is the reason why we had to make the decision that we did [to fire him]. But there is really nothing more to it than that.

VN:
If it was simply an error of judgement, could he have been suspended for some time rather than fired?

JV: I think that in this day and age in cycling, for better or for worse, people don’t believe a slap on the wrist is sufficient any more. We acted in the only way that we felt was appropriate.

VN:
It is clearly a day of mixed feelings for the team. It’s cut ties with a long-time part of the management, but it has also won the Santos Tour Down Under…

JV: Right now we are the number one ranked team in the world and we intend to end the season as the number one ranked team in the world [note: Movistar is actually the top-ranked team, but Meyer leads the 2011 World Tour]. We intend to prove that it is not mutually exclusive to be the number one ranked team in the world and to being staunchly anti-doping. And I wish that Matt White could have been part of that. It’s been a tough decision to take.
 

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