Jonathan Vaughters. *Photo by Sarah Lagan
Jonathan Vaughters. *Photo by Sarah Lagan
Creative and intellectual thought was abuzz at this weekend’s TEDxBermuda conference. Professors, lawyers, scientists and activists mixed with artists, musicians and poets in the first conference of its kind on the island. Ted is a non-profit organization that began in 1984 dedicated to “ideas worth spreading”. Ted stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and experts in each field make presentations and answer questions from a live audience which are then broadcast for free on the Internet. Organizer John Narraway told us that he planned to organize a second conference in October and hinted that they could become a regular fixture on the island’s community calendar. Sarah Lagan and Amanda Dale attended the conference  and reported on the numerous speakers.

Jonathan Vaughters was part of the team that helped Lance Armstrong to the first of seven successive Tour de France wins.

He gave up everything — his studies, his social life, all his spare time — to dedicate himself to being among the world’s best cyclists but his illusions were soon shattered when he learned that doping was rife within the sport.

In his presentation, Vaughters described how he helped to create change in the corrupt world of professional cycling.

In 2001 he was at the top of his game and ready to compete in the Tour De France but received a bee sting to his eye. His doctor refused to give him Cortisone, which Vaughters knew was being dished out freely to competitors claiming to have knee and asthma problems. It didn’t apply to allergic reactions.

Everyone told him to just lie but he couldn’t find it in his conscience. Taking the drug would mean he would test positive in the drug test unless he abandoned the race. “I had to choose between lying to my mother or disappointing my fans.”

As a gesture to highlight the absurd doping laws he turned up to the start line on his bike but was ridiculed by another rider for “trying to play by the rules”.

The following year he retired at 29. Here began his mission to clean up the game he loved.

He started the drug-free Garmin Cervélo Pro Cycling Team for young American riders. They were dedicated to cleaning up the sport and, through the Agency for Sporting Ethics, were subject to almost 20 times the number of drugs tests their rivals underwent. “Following a rigid ethical line” they began winning races and attracting big sponsors.

“We changed the paradigm of an entire professional sport.”

TEDxBermuda 2011