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[an error occurred while processing this directive] banner Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
The world's unluckiest cyclist?
Jonathan Vaughters' puffed up eye
Vaughters suffers from an allergy to wasp stings
Jonathan Vaughters gave up the prospect of a career as a doctor for life as a professional cyclist.

But his experiences on the roads of the Tour de France have left him with plenty of case studies should he return to medical training.

In 1999, he crashed in the first week and last year he managed to get to the second before a repeat.

It would have been the first Tour de France that I finished - it's been a dream of mine since I was 15 years old
  Jonathan Vaughters

When Vaughters reached Monday's second rest day of this year's Tour, its third week, he had cause for some celebration and relaxation.

Surely nothing could go wrong now?

Wrong. The combination of a rogue southern French wasp and cycling's strict doping rules meant Vaughters' third week of the Tour lasted just 10km.

The insect made its impact during a training ride on the rest day, something riders must do to keep their legs from seizing up during a three-week race.

He was unable to treat the sting because it would have required a kind of cortisone injection that is banned by anti-doping rules.

Photographs of the climber from Denver, Colorado, make it clear why he could not go on.

Vaughters' closed eye
Vaughters' eye gave him no chance of continuing

"If you can't see where you're going in a bike race it's not safe," said the Credit Agricole rider.

"It's very disappointing. I've had some horrible luck in the Tour before."

That is understatement in the extreme.

In 1999 Vaughters arrived with great form and for what appeared a key role in the US Postal team of eventual winner Lance Armstrong.

He never got near the mountains in that Tour, let alone Armstrong's victory party.

A crash on the Passage de Gois causeway on the second stage ultimately helped Armstrong, delaying runner-up Alex Zülle by six minutes.

But it did not seem that way at the time with Vaughters suffering a fractured chin on the slippery seaside road.

Last year Vaughters joined Credit Agricole and stayed out of trouble in the Tour's first week.

He reached his favourite arena of the mountains ready to make an impact but on the first stage in the Pyrenees had another spill and suffered concussion.

The Tour dream was put on hold until this year, when his speciality, a mountain time trial, was put into the route.

His finish in the stage to Chamrousse, 21st place, was perhaps a relative disappointment but at least he was still in the race.

That was until the wasp made its unscheduled intervention.

Vaughters was left with three options after the sting:

  • Attempt to ride with the sight of one eye
  • Stop the race and take the cortisone to relieve the symptoms
  • Take the substance and risk a drugs test
He chose the middle option and went on to accuse the doping regulations of being "unrealistic" and "over the top".

Fellow riders reacted with disbelief at the circumstances under which Vaughters was forced to abandon.

"It's ridiculous," said Jens Voigt, a Credit Agricole team mate who won Wednesday's stage.

"It's hard to understand. He didn't want to cheat - he just wanted to go to Paris," Voigt told reporters after his stage win.

Urgent conditions

Frederic Bessy, another of Vaughters' Credit Agricole team mates, said doctors with the UCI should be allowed to bend the rules in urgent conditions.

"Jonathan spent two weeks with us and it's a major disappointment for him and the whole team that he was unable to finish.

"The anti-doping laws are very strict and it's for the good of everyone. But there are some specific points that should be reviewed."

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