David Millar has revealed he is undecided over whether to appeal his lifetime ban from competing for Great Britain in the Olympic Games following a landmark ruling this week from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Former Garmin team mate Bradley Wiggins, meanwhile, admits that he is guilty of hypocrisy on the issue – he supports the stance of the British Olympic Association, but would like Millar to be part of the British team at London 2012.
Banned for two years in 2004 and stripped of the world time trial championship he had won in Hamilton, Ontario, the previous year, Millar effectively has a lifetime ban from competing in the Olympics due to British Olympic Association Bylaw 25 which prevents athletes found guilty of a doping offence from being selected for the Games.
However, the legality of the BOA’s rule has come under the spotlight again following this week’s CAS ruling in a case involving Olympic 400 metres champion LaShawn Merritt.
CAS held that Rule 45 of the International Olympic Committee’s Charter, banning athletes from competing at the next Games after returning from a doping ban was invalid.
The court said that not only did the rule place athletes in a position of double jeopardy, that is being punished twice for the same offence, but because the World Anti-doping Code (WADC) is deemed to be an integral part of the Olympic Charter, the rule was in conflict with the Charter itself.
Quoted in The Scotsman following the CAS decision, Millar admitted that he hadn’t decided what action, if any, he plans to take, but said that he believed the outcome of the case means that the days of Bylaw 25 are numbered.
"I have no idea at the moment what I'm going to do. I'm going to let the gods decide this one,” the 34-year-old told the newspaper.
"If I appealed I believe I would have a high chance it would succeed. But I have a lot of respect for Dave Brailsford and the Great Britain squad and I don't want to cause any grief or negative press” he continued.
Brailsford, a close friend of Millar’s, was at dinner with him near Biarritz one evening in June 2004 when French police arrived to take the then Cofidis rider back to his apartment and carry out a search that unearthed two used syringes plus empty vials of EPO.
The pair remain close and it is highly likely that without that doping ban in his past, Millar would have been an integral part of Team Sky when it was set up two years ago.
Since returning to competition in 2006, Millar has become one of the leading voices against doping in the peloton – so much so that he now sits on WADA’s athletes committee.
While some see him as a victim of a drugs culture then endemic in cycling who has since become a leading spokesman in the fight against doping, for many other fans of the sport, the fact that he Millar, by his own admission, cheat through doping means that there is no forgiving him, and it appears that the cyclist himself may not wish to put himself in the firing line by appealing the BOA ban.
"If I went to court I'm sure I would beat it,” he reflected, “but I'm also concerned about the haters crawling out of the woodwork, I've had enough of that.
"The only pro would be for me personally to be able to compete in London."
However, Millar insists that the bylaw has outlived its relevance. "What people have to understand is that it is only a matter of time before it's annulled,” he insisted. “Everybody in the know thinks it cannot really stand on the global stage, it is considered an archaic law and doesn't really stand on the world stage.
"WADA considers me to be a valuable asset in the fight against doping but my own Olympic association doesn't agree,” he went on.
"I can understand where the bylaw comes from and I can see where the origins lay but the bottom line is that everything has changed since then.
"It was very black and white 15 years ago, everything has moved forward, the science and judicial side of it. Each case needs to be judged on its individual merits and it doesn't make sense to have a universal draconian penalty that doesn't distinguish between offences,” he concluded.
Wiggins, like Millar a member of the Great Britain team that helped Mark Cavendish win the rainbow jersey in Copenhagen a fortnight ago, said that prior to this week’s decision, he didn’t believe that his fomer team-mate at Garmin would challenge Bylaw 25.
Quoted on the website More Than The Games, the Team Sky rider, who last month took silver in the world championship time trial, just as Millar had done 12 months ago, said: “I spoke to David Millar about appealing a few weeks ago and he said that, in his mind, he was never going to do that. Obviously things have changed in the last 48 hours, so I don’t know what is going to happen now."
"The British Olympic Association are standing very firmly on what they believe in and I guess time will tell with that,” added Wiggins, who at London 2012 can match Sir Steve Redgrave as Britain’s most successful Olympian in terms of medals won.
Currently Wiggins has five, including three gold, compared to Redgrave’s six, five of those gold, although Sir Chris Hoy, who could potentially take his tally to seven, is in a position to outdo both of them.
"With Dave, I am hypocritical because I think that he should be alright to compete - but just not the others,” reflected Wiggins.
"I think a lot of us in the team think like that because we have personal ties with athletes and Dave is a friend.
"He made his mistakes but he is now someone who believes passionately in the clean sport and has done a lot of work educating in that area since he came back to cycling."
Nearly 30 athletes have successfully appealed lifetime Olympic bans under Bylaw 25, including Christine Ohuruogu, who went on to win the 400 metres in Beiing despite having previously served a ban for missing three out-of-competition tests.
Although the rule itself has never been fully challenged. That could be set to change following this week’s CAS ruling, according to More Than The Games.
The website said that sports lawyer Jonathan Walters from the London-based law firm Charles Russell believed that Bylaw 25, part of which was unsuccessfully appealed by sprinter Dwain Chambers ahead of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, believed that an appeal now might be successful.
"In light of this decision, the BOA's rule stands on very shaky ground," he maintained.
"In his legal challenge, Chambers pled complicated competition law arguments against the BOA rule poorly - but pled differently on the basis that the rule is an invalid amendment to the WADA code, a challenge could well succeed, particularly with the precedent of the CAS decision."
The relevance of a bylaw adopted in 1992, long before the World-Anti-Doping Code (WADC), designed to produce a harmonised, international approach to combating doing, came into force in 2004.
Bylaw 25 has, as a result, come to be viewed as something of an anachronism with the likes of former World Anti-Doping Agency President Dick Pound, UK Anti-Doping Chief Executive Andy Parkinson and, last week, US Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart, all saying that it is time for the rule to be scrapped.
In Parkinson’s view, the lifetime ban also removed an incentive for athletes caught doping to co-operate with the authorities in the first place.
"If, as is the case with the eligibility rules of the International Olympic Committee and here in the UK the British Olympic Association, we remove all incentives for athletes to share their stories and information with us, then we will continue to struggle to catch those who are supplying performance enhancing substances and often operate on the edges of sport with relative impunity," he said.
"It is clear that this is a hard message to get across and to agree on, largely because these eligibility rules are easy to defend, but if we cannot be seen to be working with all athletes, then what hope do we have in really getting to the heart of the doping problem and to those that traffic and supply."
Their opinion will have gained more support following the CAS ruling this week.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.