Brrrrrtt brrrrrtt! it’s Tuesday, October 16th, 2012. The day begins when Brad Huff texts me at 6 AM to tell me he’s proud of me for winning this weekend’s USGP races in Fort Collins. He’s on his way to Japan for the last race of the year with my Jelly Belly teammates. He also happens to have a 12-hour layover at LAX. That vibrating text wakes up Tony, one of our RAPHA-FOCUS mechanics, and now he’s gotta use the bathroom. So now, of course, I gotta use the bathroom too. Up I go, as hard as is it to get my sore body (from the Fort Collins races) outta bed.
As I stumble to the bathroom I have a mild freaker – thinking oh man, I updated my USADA whereabouts, right?! I tell myself “yeah of course I did, I’m always meticulous about that…” DING DONG DING DONG!
There’s only one person that can be: Anti-doping. I’m flying to Prague that afternoon, and my slot was early because I didn’t know my schedule when I filled out my whereabouts. I open the door; it’s Jurgen from Denmark, here for blood and urine.
I thought I was dreaming but, really it was really a bout of déjà vu. I tell Jurgen that I just took a massive, exhilarating pee and I’m sorry, but welcome to Colorado. He just flew in, he tells me. I grab him some water and we start filling out a bunch of paperwork – Probably six forms in total. I pick out the test kits, read the numbers, double, triple check to make the numbers match up correctly. He then takes out a butterfly needle and draws two tubes of blood. It’s now 49 minutes after he showed up and we’re finally in the bathroom, and this complete stranger – Jurgen – who just flew in from halfway across the world, is watching me with my pants down at 7 AM in my mechanic’s bathroom in Colorado. AWESOME, right?
This isn’t the first time this has happened and it’s not going to be the last. To be accurate, the last time was about a month earlier, in Las Vegas. This happens to me about twice a month, and I happily greet them every time they knock at 6 AM.
While that was a nice story to share with you all, about how an anti-doping control takes place in the world of professional cycling, with so much talk of doping going on lately, I fell the need to re-state my stance on the old doping culture of cycling and bring some attention to the issues that have been really bothering me over the last few months.
As I sat there and had my blood drawn I wondered to myself, does anyone actually believe that “I’ve never tested positive” means anything anymore? So many guys did such a good job of lying for so long, why should anyone?
I’m not an idiot. I know some question my results; I know what many of you think. But the honest (and sad) truth is that the choices I’ve made in my career mean I’m making less money, getting worse results and achieving less than those who choose to cheat. Call me naïve, but I believed in the controls. I didn’t know you could be doping and not test positive.
To all of you who are reading – friends, fans, family, press, sponsors, whoever – I’ve never, ever, not once, not as a ‘mistake’ or “bad decision” or by choice, ever taken any injectable, oral, patchable, gelled, liquid, pill or otherwise illegal drug in any shape or form. To go even further, I’ve never ever smoked or taken ANY recreational drugs. Not mushrooms, not reefer, not ecstasy, not cocaine.
Truthfully and honestly, on a bible or into your eyes, with my hand on my mom as I swear on her life. Never once have I put anything into my body – other than food and water – to cheat at a cycling race. I’ve never won any races with anything other than hard work. Every time I have an anti-doping control, it always feels like a challenge, like you’re being judged or accused of a wrong-doing and we give a sample to validate our integrity. It’s something that I gladly do as a part of my job and a commitment to clean cycling.
I’m disappointed that this entire mess was allowed to happen. I’m disappointed that blood transfusions are still happening and it’s fairly undetectable. I’m disappointed that the plasticizer test isn’t being used. I’m bummed out that if the anti-doping agencies believe someone to be doping, they don’t have a private investigator following them for a month or week, or doing whatever it takes to stop the problem. Why can’t we have chaperones for the entire Tour or two weeks before the Olympics and see how some of the data and results look after that. I know there’s more they can do to ensure clean cycling. It’s just a matter of wanting to do it and actually making the changes the sport needs.
Why are we athletes? Why do we love Steve Prefontaine or Babe Ruth? They’re inspirational; they’re role models; they’re good people who push boundaries and inspire others to be their best; to follow their dreams and become masters of their passion. It’s the same way that anyone who has any talent develops it and works hard to refine and perfect it.
In light of everything that’s going on, I want people, fans, young riders, friends, to believe that you can work hard at something, make a living doing it honestly and legitimately, as I and many others have – the hard work way. It’s real, it works, it takes longer, but the end result is that moment when you succeed, the right way. When you buy that house with money earned from hard work, when you look your family in the face and talk about your accomplishments at the holidays, when you sign that autograph for the young kid at the race and when you set positive examples that people can follow, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about being the person you say you are and living it.
I always do my best to be a good person. The person that you see in Behind THE Barriers or read about in an interview is the real Jeremy Powers. I’m not trying to be fake in any way or be someone I’m not. I do my best to be kind and outgoing – I pride myself on it, actually. I always believe that by being a good person and doing good things – regardless of money, power or fame – good things will come your way. Good Karma is what some call that, but it’s more than that. Do unto others as you would want done unto yourself.
With regard to my former coach, Rick Crawford:
When I read the USADA reports, I thought that Rick could have been one of the people whose names were blacked out. I felt that Rick and I had a very honest and open dialogue about anti-doping over the years. We both were crystal clear about where I stood on anti-doping, which I shared with you above. However, the USADA reports led me to feel that information was omitted from our conversations in the past. I’m human and I can understand why it was hard for Rick to admit his mistakes.
After those omissions came to light, I was pissed. I always remember a conversation with Rick over dinner at a training camp a couple years ago when I asked him about euro ‘cross riders possibly doping. He took two knives from the table, placed them next to one another, one at a steep upward angle and another at a gradual upward angle. He told me: “think of these two knives as lines that eventually intersect. Both lines will reach the point of intersection, but the steep one gets there a lot quicker. The gradual line gets to that same point. It takes longer, but it has so many more rewards.” I always found the simplicity of that metaphor to be easy to tell over and over again. One knife is doing it clean, one knife is doing it dirty. I have told the same story to many of our JAM Fund and young Jelly Belly riders that I come into contact with. Rick is a great coach and someone that helped me reach this point in my cycling. I don’t work with Rick anymore and we haven’t spoken since August when all this came to light. But I’m sure we will at some point speak again.
To end, I can only speak for myself and the decisions I made in my life. I value my fans and the people who follow my results. I continue to refine and push myself in my training and racing, and during these times of bad press for cycling and doping I hope that you can still value someone’s word, as hard as that may be. I don’t write anything here to be an anti-doping crusader, my goal is to speak to my fans and not to beg for attention on something I hate to talk about and continues to bring negative publicity to the sport.
Cycling has made lots of progress – I absolutely believe that. But there’s still an infection, and it’s made me seriously question why I associate myself with it. Here’s what does keep me going- I believe there are plenty of clean athletes that are better than me, which inspires me to get on the bike every day to become better and learn more.
I thank everyone reading this for supporting me, my sponsors and our sport. Keep having fun and smiling while you’re out riding. I’m going to do the same.