I’m feeling sorry for Trent Lowe. A promising climber, his career didn’t work out. He ended his time with Slipstream Sports badly after he got fired for not using team kit whilst still technically under contract and then his Pegasus team never made it to the start line. They say things come in threes but as if this collection of bad news wasn’t enough, the whole story is now being made very public.
One one side there is Jonathan Vaughters and his Slipstream Sports entity, on the other we have Lowe and Martin Hardie, his adviser and a law lecturer at Australia’s Deakin University. Hardie has just made public his side of the story with a detailed chronology of events on his interesting blog. I’ve been following Hardie for some time, his assertion that doping is as much a socio-cultural phenomenon within parts of the peloton as it is medical or economic, is a crucial matter to grasp.
To summarise, Lowe was sent to “dodgy doctor” Luis Garcia del Moral, a man suspected of administering doping products in the past. I repeat suspected as he’s not been convicted. Nevertheless, the mention of del Moral’s name rings alarm bells, google his name if you like. And it’s a break of the Garmin team’s internal policy to ensure all medical referrals are controlled. At the same time Lowe was seeking compensation for breach of contract and discussions between Hardie and Slipstream’s lawyers involved talk of compensation. Vaughters then went public, splashing the figures around and it appeared that Lowe, or at least Hardie, was pushing for a juicy settlement in order to buy silence over the del Moral case. Following this revelation, the team sacked Matt White, the DS who made the referral to del Moral. Now Hardie is using the same public arena to put his case.
What to make of it all?
Well we’ve now got Vaughters in one corner and Hardie in the other. Both have the clear and transparent intention to put their side of the story. What was once a dispute over an employment contract is now a battle for image and perception. The lawyers might still be swapping emails and letters but now people are being encouraged to join the dots.
I wrote about St Jonathan of Girona the other day, half the point of the post was to suggest that he is no saint, that he has business interests and that he’s quite fallible and he gets involved in debates with humble fans. What’s awkward here is that if Vaughters is no saint, he’s not exactly the big sinner. He’s one of the few team managers to put his head above the parapet. The fact that he’s built himself a “nice guy” image is why Lowe and Hardie get some traction. If these claims were made against a slapdash outfit like, well pick your own poorly-run team, then people would shrug and ignore it. Now everyone can see that at best “JV” gets awkward when replying to emails from someone who he doesn’t want to renew, at worst the friendly Twitter account is a mask for a steely businessman.
In case you’ve forgotten, Trent Lowe’s the centre of the story. I hope he doesn’t get caught in legal crossfire, the fuss being made over a breach of contract and a final month’s pay is greater than most unpaid riders have ever known. In the meantime we have two sides who seem set on using the public sphere to denigrate each other. For Lowe’s sake I wish this could be matter for dialogue, arbitration and the law instead of a media spat.