10 Minutes with…Andy Layhe

Andy Layhe is the driving force behind Bike Pure and took some time out to speak to Neutral Service about the past, the present and the future.

 

So, you are seen by many of the figurehead for the fight on doping. But what made you start?  Was it a particular case or situation or did it just happen?

I’d say the main reason for starting was simply because of the love we have for the sport. When you care about something you want to protect it; when the image of the sport was taking a battering then Bike Pure came to life. There was never an independent voice for clean cycling, the dopers were getting all the headlines and we wanted to give a voice to those opposed to doping.

It was when Vinokorov tested positive, that was the turning point. I guess he was the catalyst for Bike Pure.  We never dreamt we would be so popular but that just exemplifies the need and desire from the fans. We’re simply cycling fans.

 

Do you think dopers still get too many headline?  Or do you think its important we make as much of what’s happening public?

I think there are still issues for the sport. We’re being constantly told in the media about the ‘dark old days’ but riders still test positive. It’s a tough call; you don’t want to see those headlines but at the same time you want to see cheating riders caught.

The sport can still do more still.  We all know that it’s the most tested sport compared to the likes of tennis and football and we also need to celebrate this. The more you test, the more you’ll catch. Seeing riders test positive gives the sport a bad name, yes, but you either catch them or you don’t.

We feel there’s still more that leading grand tour riders can do. The whole Froome issue with us last year was difficult in many ways – we didn’t set about to cause friction, simply to make Chris aware that he and Team Sky was in a fantastic position to innovate on an anti-doping level.  We knew that Chris or the next Tour winner after the Armstrong confession would be facing some very tough questions day in day out during the race. You don’t want that as a rider but those questions will keep coming and coming especially if you’re form is exceptional. So the idea I had was that Chris was in a fantastic position to do something that no other rider at the top of the tree had done before. Sky are said to be innovative, leaders in this and that. We felt it was a great opportunity to do something different, produce the watts, weights, all the data etc to remove any doubt. It would have been revolutionary and given the riders the opportunity to stick two fingers up to all the doubters and journalists out there. 

I know Chris did release some data but it wasn’t totally public. It’s tough for the riders, they have a race to do and months of prep go into the Tour. We didn’t mean any harm to Chris or his image, we simply cared about him and the sport, we didn’t want him to be caught like a rabbit in the headlights in press conferences and interviews.

I think people should focus more on other sports, the bigger money sports. Cycling is a continual scapegoat and can hold its head high for introducing the passport and other fundamental changes in dope testing. 

USADA, 780+ tests for cyclists, 39 for tennis. Go figure…those figures speak for themselves.

 

Those cheating riders, or those that have cheated, are they best placed to lead our sport out of the position it finds itself in? Like JV and Riis?  I mean, perhaps they have a good perspective that can really help. Or perhaps it’s a reminded of the ‘dark old days’ that the sports need to get rid of?

In our minds there are two kinds of dopers. Don’t get me wrong we’re not sticking up for their unethical decisions but it’s not as black and white as people think.

Doper 1: Get caught, don’t accept you doped, deny, deny, deny, issue a statement on it, undergo your sanction, keep quiet and get welcomed back into the sport and a new team and a new salary.

Doper 2: Get caught, apologise, be totally honest about what you did, apologise to the fans, speak openly and truthfully with your family. Be tarnished as an idiot and a liar by your fellow colleagues and managers, become vilified in the media and never come back into the sport at any level. Livelihood gone, image tarnished.

I spent time with Jörg Jaksche at the Change Cycling Now conference in London and subsequently here in Australia. A convicted doper and gave evidence at the Fuentes trial but a guy who spoke out openly and really has a passion to now see change and make amends for the mistakes he made. Yes he doped, he made bad decisions along with many many fellow pros. Some weren’t caught but some continue to race today with a nice salary and a stature in the sport. I know who these riders are and it turns my stomach to see them still competing and saying they raced clean during their whole careers. Jorg on the other hand has turned his back, the majority of his old ‘friends’ have deserted him and he’s back studying at University for a better life off the bike whilst at the same time trying to warn young riders of what he lost when he doped.

Riders who have doped can put something back into the sport by engaging with younger riders and telling their story of the dangers doping can really do.  It’s not right that riders who speak out are banished form the sport, becoming black sheep.

 

On that note, what did you think of the Tyler Hamilton book or revolutions?  It seems very honest, but obviously he’s had his chances and used them all up.

It was another one of those ‘tell all’ books. I was a huge fan of Tyler before I knew the real truth. It all came too late but in the end it’s best that riders are honest. Your past will always catch up with you at some point so hold your hand up, say what you did, it’s best for everyone and the sport in general.

What disturbed me and many others was Riis involvement in the doping process and stories in the book. Introducing riders to doping and methods almost as if it was expected of them. He’s still there in the sport, who do we believe? Should the UCI do something?

We see the characteristics of illicit team managers and doctors as more of an evil than riders doping themselves. Imagine introducing a 20-year-old kid, a neo pro on how to inject illegal substances or undertake a transfusion? It’s disgusting, petering on child abuse if you like. Imagine if your son or daughter was faced with this unbeknown to you? It’s unimaginable. Yet many riders faced that moment, dope or stay, don’t dope and go home. It really makes me mad and is the catalyst for me doing the work we do every day.

So, looking to the future, what measures can teams take to ensure youth and junior riders are following the right path from day 1?

Yea, it’s getting a bit dark eh? It’s not all bad though.

The sport is in a better place than it’s been for a long time. We’re close to the 4 year bans too and that’s a deterrent we’ve pushed for since our inception. We are seeing younger riders do well now, grab stage wins, whereas it was the older riders who were taking all the credit. The new generation is here and they are coming into the sport at a good time and many not having to face the decision of their predecessors. I think we’re back to the late 80’s in terms of racing and those contexts which is excellent.

 

Bike Pure