Open Letter to Steve Johnson at USA Cycling

Dear Steve,

We go way back, you and me. Back to the days of racing parking lot criteriums in Utah in the early 90’s, 1993 to be exact. You were a Professor at the University of Utah, and many young and impressionable students (among those, my best friend, and also my wife) fawned over your every word, because you were a great teacher, but also an embodiment of what you taught. The proof was in the pudding so to speak. You could back up the science with the bike racing, and anybody who raced bikes against you back then and referred to you as “Old Man,” the joke was on us. You didn’t have to be enrolled at the U in one of your classes to get schooled on a weekly basis. You just had to show up and race. This was also the time a young teenager and former ski racer burst on the cycling scene by the name of Levi Leipheimer.

I am writing this letter to you in the public and open forum of my club’s website, because I need to get something off my chest. You are in charge of the sport I have loved since toe clips and hair nets, and man what a mess you have on your hands. I urge you to take control of the things you can, and think about the members out there who pay their license fees and club fees every year, whether we knew all along that Lance and others doped, or not. We’re not some Johnny Come Lately fans who all went out and bought yellow Trek Madones after Lance started racking up the Tours. We’re the same guys that were cross-eyed, in the gutter, trying to stay on your wheel at the Thursday Night World Championships. Trying to compete, as is the fashion to say these days. And now we have kids who may or may not be getting into cycling. Times have changed, but we still love the sport.

Again, I urge you to think about your members. You have a written mantra on the USA Cycling website about why cyclists should hire a USA Cycling-certified coach. I quote a lengthy and relevant passage here:

“USA Cycling recognizes that there are elements of coaching that go beyond knowledge of cycling techniques and rules, and that participants and parents alike strive to find coaches who are worthy of their confidence and trust in many other respects. For that reason, USA Cycling subjects each coaching applicant to a background check conducted by the National Child Safety Initiatives to identify coaches whose trouble with the law may have produced a criminal record. In light of the constitutional rights of the accused in this nation, of course, not every brush with the law is documented and recorded and there are significant reporting delays in some cases, but this database is at least a starting point. Riders, parents, and local association officials have other resources to ensure that they are comfortable with their coaching choices, including references from prior coaching appointments and the recommendations of athletes. In addition, insurance carriers are often a surprisingly good source to minimize risk on a variety of fronts.

USA Cycling understands that no screening process is absolutely perfect, and encourages anyone involved in the sport to report potentially criminal behavior to local law enforcement agencies immediately. We support clear “zero opportunity/zero tolerance” policies when it comes to inappropriate behavior by coaches, and we believe that the development of communication, training and response protocols goes a long way toward minimizing problems.”

I believe whole heartedly that Rick Crawford’s admission of doping Levi and Kirk O’Bee may not be considered the type of crime your stance refers to above, but it certainly is morally corrupt and unethical, not to mention unhealthy, and amounts to inappropriate behavior, regardless of when it happened, and I urge you to put your money where your mouth is. Scratch that. It’s our money, every license and club fee. I demand that you enforce the aforementioned “zero opportunity/zero tolerance” policy and remove Rick Crawford’s name from your coaching database. I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter.

Your friend,

Thomas Cooke


  1. andy albershardt says:

    I agree with Thomas. And coming from an “old man” visiting the parking lot crits in SLC and now have a young daughter racing. Also, being a coach, I do not see why we have to be kept in the same company as Crawford and other coaches who have a past assisting young impressionable athletes or any athlete for that matter in unethical and illegal practices.

    It’s time for the USCF to be pro-active rather than wait on world governing bodies such as the UCI or IOC to act. I doubt if they will act upon the coaches behavior.

  2. Matthew Leddy, PH.D.,M.D. says:

    I too knew of Steve Johnson. Living and racing in UTAH in 1988/1989, I had plenty of exposure to Steve. I, along with many other riders viewed him as pretentious, condescending, egotistical and elitist. I’m delighted he has stepped down from USA cycling. Crawl back under that rock from which you came Steve.

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