CMU cycling turns to team captain to lead team

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO)-- The Colorado Mesa cycling team began a nation-wide search for a new head coach as soon as Rick Crawford was removed from the position on Monday.

In the interim, the Mavericks, currently the No. 1 team in the country, will rely on team captain, and reigning national champion, Patrick Rostel to fulfill head coaching duties.

The team is in good hands, said Scott Mercier the University's cycling director. However, that's not to say this situation hasn't taken a toll on the team.

"It's been a roller coaster," commented Mercier. "They love their coach, they support their coach.

"Yet at the same time when they found out a little bit more about [additional doping accusations], they understood that [CMU] had to make the decision [to remove Crawford," added Mercier.

In October of this year, Crawford voluntarily admitted to the university and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency his participation in a doping program with two professional cyclists from 1999-2001.

At that time Crawford agreed to serve 500 hours of community service by conducting USADA's anti-doping education program.

Additionally, Crawford signed an agreement with USADA that eliminated the statue of limitations on any further doping infractions. Meaning, should any news come to light about another past instance that he participated in doping, or if he should involve himself with doping in the future, he would face harsher punishment, including a lifetime ban from the sport.

On Tuesday, the University announced the termination of Crawford's employment due to new information involving "an instance of a drug-related infraction(s) that occured while Crawford was in Durango, Colo."

Crawford was the coach of Ft. Lewis College's cycling team from 2001-2009. He led the Skyhawks to eight national titles during his time in Durango.

Mercier did not reveal whether the new incident involved a collegiate or professional cyclist, but he did make it clear that no CMU students have been involved in any doping program with Crawford.

"We didn't find any issues with the kids [at Colorado Mesa]," said Mercier, "we found a credible athlete that said [Crawford] wasn't being truthful with the past."

Ultimately, Mercier said the decision was made to remove Crawford because there was not complete transparency into Crawford's past infractions.

"Personally, it's been very stressful," Mercier stated. "I like Rick a lot, but my priorities have to be with the kids and the university."

Mercier has set a goal of hiring a new coach for the Mavs by the end of February, 2013. Already he has some potential coaches in mind. At the top of the list is a two-time Olympian whose name Mercier did not disclose.

As for the Mavs, they'll continue to ride and train. The Cyclo-cross Nationals take place the second weekend in January in Wisconsin.

"We intend to win that [national] title this year," stated Mercier.

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