Broaching the subject of doping in cycling used to cause riders to pedal for the hills. Now, some are queuing up to speak out.
I feel like there should be a once-and-for-all truth and reconciliation and, at that point in time, everything can move forward.
In recent weeks, and amid the backdrop of the US Anti-Doping Agency's dogged pursuit of Lance Armstrong, the wall of silence that once formed an impenetrable ring about cycling has been crumbling.
Tyler Hamilton and Jonathan Vaughters, former Armstrong teammates, as well as reputed riders Joerg Jaksche and Johan Museeuw have spoken with candor about doping, confessing to their own infringements and commenting on the doping past of others in the peloton.
Jaksche was one of several riders kicked off the Tour de France on the eve of the 2006 race in connection with the Operation Puerto case into blood doping. Now retired, he admits freely to his doping past.
"I spoke out too much. That was the main problem," he told Cyclingnews's Daniel Banson on Tuesday. "By showing them the mirror, riders weren't happy with me."
On Cyclingnews's forum late Wednesday, Vaughters, the manager of the Garmin-Sharp team, joined in a discussion on doping.
One forum member broadly asked Vaughters what checks he had made on former riders , who had been on Armstrong's US Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams, when he signed them to his Garmin team.
"Valid question. CVV, Zabriskie, Danielson, while all clearly have a past, and from an ethical standpoint are no different from JJ (Joerg Jaksche), there is a very pragmatic difference. That difference is performance based," Vaughters replied, using a pseudonym on the forum. "Basically, I knew from what my time at USPS (US Postal), how "inside" or not those riders were. Based on this, I knew (their) transgressions, while ethically the same as JJ's, were much less in terms of enhancing performance."
Vaughters' comments, in which he effectively said three of his current Garmin team, Christian Vande Velde (ex-Postal), David Zabriskie (ex-Postal), Tom Danielson (ex-Discovery), had previously doped, caused an internet furore.
Vaughters confirmed in a telephone interview on Thursday he had made the comments, under the pseudonym JV1973, and that the term "ethical standpoint" referred to doping.
He did not wish to discuss the comments any further, but has spoken with the riders.
"I talked to them all and they are very comfortable with the truth. They are comfortable in their own skin," Vaughters told The Associated Press. "Obviously it was a surprise to them and I feel bad for that, but at the same time they're not upset."
Although Vaughters admonished himself on his official Twitter page for those comments, they helped illustrate a discernible shift in the sport: One toward more responsible openness, rather than entrenchment in denials, as used to be commonplace in cycling's dark days.
"These skeletons have to be moved out of the closet and you need to have a clean start," Vaughters said. "I feel like there should be a once-and-for-all truth and reconciliation and, at that point in time, everything can move forward.
"(Cycling) is so much cleaner than it has been in the past. It's super encouraging to see clean riders winning the biggest races."
Vaughters, who last month confessed to doping during his time as a professional cyclist, made his comments on the forum in the same week as Hamilton's book release and comments made by Jaksche and Museeuw.
Hamilton, Armstrong's Postal teammate from 1998 to 2001, detailed the years he spent lying about his doping and his relationship with Armstrong in his book, "The Secret Race, Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-Ups and Winning at All Costs."
Two weeks ago, Armstrong dropped any further challenges to USADA's allegations that he took performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour from 1999-2005. A day later, USADA took steps to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour titles and ban him for life.
Hamilton said coming clean gave him a sense of peace.
Others now feel like talking.
Museeuw, one of Belgian cycling's biggest stars, said in an interview with newspaper Gazet Van Antwerpen on Thursday that doping during his era, the late 1980’s until the early 2000’s, was rife.
"Doping was part of it for almost everyone," Museeuw said. "If we don't (come clean) the raking in the past will only continue."
Museeuw won the Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders three times each. He was convicted of doping by a Belgian court four years ago and given a suspended prison sentence.