The Fat Cyclist Explains: The Slipstream / Garmin-Cervelo / Trent Lowe / Matt White / Luis Garcia del Moral / Jonathan Vaughters / Prentice Steffen / Martin Hardie Scandal
It’s a confusing time to be a fan of pro cycling, what with scandals left and right, some so nuanced and complex that layfolk like yourselves have no real chance of understanding them, without expert help.
Luckily for you, I am an expert. And I’m here to help. Specifically, today I am going to help you understand two different cycling scandals, which, due to a scheduling error, are happening concurrently and are therefore putting the cycling press in danger of having nothing to talk about later this winter, when both scandals have petered out.
The Contador Scandal
The first cycling scandal I will help you understand is the Alberto Contador / Clenbuterol affair. It goes like this:
Alberto Contador had some clenbuterol — a banned substance in cycling because it makes you lose weight, which Contador obviously needed to do — in his system. There’s no way to prove one way or the other whether the clenbuterol got there on purpose, but Contador’s going to be suspended for a year (instead of two years, because there wasn’t enough clenbuterol to do him much good, and it’s possible and maybe even probable that he’s telling the truth about it coming from steak he ate) anyway.
And he’s going to lose his 2010 TdF win, making Andy Schleck the winner from last year. But Andy doesn’t want to be declared the winner this way; he wants his first TdF win to be because he’s the fastest guy, not just the fastest guy who didn’t get stripped of his award.
So I guess this means we won’t see Schleck photoshopped onto any podiums. Darn it.
Which means that, due to a little-known loophole, the first person to call “dibs” becomes the winner of the 2010 Tour de France.
There. That one wasn’t too hard to explain, was it?
OK, then. On to the next scandal.
The The Slipstream / Garmin-Cervelo / Trent Lowe / Matt White / Luis Garcia del Moral / Jonathan Vaughters / Prentice Steffen / Martin Hardie Scandal
Allow me to recommend that you settle in and grab yourself a drink, but not in that order, unless you happen to have a drink handy to the location in which you’re going to settle.
My point being, this next scandal is going to take a while to explain, due to the number of players and the strange and intertwined series of events.
Over the course of the past week, we have slowly learned that Matt White — the director of Team Garmin Cervelo — was fired for allowing racer Trent Lowe to see a non-approved doctor (Luis Garcia del Moral), ostensibly without the knowledge of Slipstream honchoJonathan Vaughters, nor team doctor Prentice Steffen, except for the fact that the doctor’s report did in fact get sent to these two, but was somehow overlooked by them. Meanwhile, Lowe and his advisor, Martin Hardie, have apparently been attempting to blackmail Vaughters, saying that unless they hand over a whole buncha money (500,000 euros, which is equivalent to 103,972,000 Nigerian nairas), they would reveal that Lowe had been to see a doctor that has been linked to (although Moral denies) doping cyclists, thus tarnishing the hitherto sterling reputation of the Garmin-Cervelo team.
This scandal, I think is fair to say, is pretty darned confusing. It probably also seems just a little bit unsavory to you that Trent Lowe would try to blackmail his team for something he himself did. It perhaps adds to the confusion that Hardie and Lowe have gone on to claim that hey haven’t blackmailed anyone at all.
Fortunately for you, I am here to help clarify things.
A Scandal, Explained
You see, to understand the complexities of this whole sordid mess, you need to understand that fifteen years ago Trent Lowe and Matt White were schoolmates in a notorious Australian children’s cycling school and prison. There, on the first day of school they got into a scuffle, because Matt thought that Lowe had been copying answers from his “Absolutist Ethics in Cycling” exam.
The fierce fight that ensued would become the stuff of school legend, due primarily to the innovative way in which bicycle parts were used as weapons, and secondarily due to the way nobody got even remotely injured, which in turn was due to the fact that both children were standing on concrete while wearing road cycling shoes at the time, and neither wanted to risk falling and becoming injured.
To all appearances, this event — far from making enemies of the two — cemented a friendship that would last for decades. In fact, the two would later laugh about it over drinks in their new capacities: Matt White as the director of a respected pro cycling team, Trent Lowe a racer for that team.
Imagine, then, the shock of those around them when it was discovered that White, known to all as a meticulous team director, would take a shortcut of having Lowe see a doctor who was known to all as a shady character.
Vaughters, whose reputation for uncompromising honesty is only rivaled by his passion for looking dapper, could have none of this, and of course had to fire White.
But that’s where the plot really starts to thicken.
Vaughters — as you’ll soon find verified by the rest of the cycling press — actually is the twin brother of the nefarious Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral, a fact which he only recently discovered when — just for fun — he tried growing a goatee. Suddenly, dodgy-looking cyclists from all over started approaching Vaughters, asking him to fill their prescriptions. Vaughters was of course confused by this seemingly nonsensical turn of events until Matt White informed him of the uncanny resemblance.
Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that after a dramatic confrontation with his mother, an angry letter to a DNA testing facility, and a trip to a Madrid hospital in the dead of night, Vaughters now knew that not only did he have a twin, but he had an evil twin engaged (allegedly) in the very thing Vaughters had sworn to spend his life fighting: illicit doping.
Thus was born a plan.
When Lowe — on White’s recommendation — visited Dr. Moral’s office, he — unbeknownst to him — was actually visiting a disguised Jonathan Vaughters, who was pretending to be Dr. Moral (as the real doctor was bound and gagged, unconcious, in a nearby broom closet).
Vaughters, of course, did his utmost to give Lowe sufficient opportunity to ask for doping help. And while plenty of doping innuendo hilariously ensued, with both parties hinting at doping without actually coming out and saying it, there was no smoking gun, and the two parted ways, with Lowe feeling like he had just received a physical from the most incompetent doctor, ever.
Now, flash forward to the near past. Lowe has confronted Vaughters with the damning evidence that he has been seeing another doctor. Vaughters, who in fact was that other doctor, has to feign incredulity, and — left with no other choice — fires the astounded White.
Now, we suddenly find out, Trent Lowe really holds a grudge. He hasn’t forgiven White for the fight the two of them were in nigh on fifteen years ago, and now he has gotten his revenge, and quite probably will find himself the owner of more than a hundred million naira.
But then, just when it seems Lowe’s victory is complete, Vaughters — dressed again as Dr. Moral — steps up to Lowe in a hotel lobby and then tears off the phony goatee.
Lowe’s head spins. But not literally. Different kind of story.
Instead, enraged, he attacks Vaughters. His advisor, Hardie, wades into the brawl, brandishing a gun and firing at random.
People scream and hit the deck. A chandelier crashes to the floor. And, in the confusion, Vaughters — his eye blackened and swollen in a very familiar fashion — extricates himself and makes a break for his bike. Lowe dashes after him, knocks a messenger off his bike, mounts, and gives pursuit.
Through the city they dash. One pursuing, one pursued. It goes on like this for several exciting minutes, and passersby can’t help but admire Vaughters for the way he manages to acquit himself on a bike, in spite of the fact that he has not been a pro in years, and also in spite of the fact that he is wearing a herringbone jacket and corduroy trousers.
Ultimately, though, Lowe catches Vaughters. They exchange a few punches, but both are winded from the dramatic chase, and have to sit down.
They begin to talk.
And it is while they talk that we discover — to our amazement! — that Trent Lowe is not a pro cyclist at all! Instead, he is really a grizzled cop (Martin Hardie is his partner) who has been working deep undercover as a pro cyclist, trying to find out who in the sport is doping, and to build a case that will stand up in court.
They exchange incredulous looks as they realize that they’ve been trying to sting each other for the exact same reasons. And then, just as they finish explaining everything to each other, Hardie — who is unable to ride a bike and so has had to give pursuit on foot — comically staggers up, winded, and demands Vaughters lay on the ground. Lowe laughs and explains.
And all is well.
Except, of course, Matt White, who is glowering. Brooding. Angry. With no job and no prospects, he has plenty of time to reflect on how he will get his revenge.
Which I will explain later. In Slipstream II: This Time It’s Personal.