Bradley Wiggins at centre of row over David Millar Olympic ban comments
Team Sky rider insists BBC quoted him out of context - watching the full video, it seems he's got a point
If all had gone to plan Bradley Wiggins would today be making headlines about his plans for this year's Tour de France and Olympic time trial, but instead the Team Sky rider finds himself at the centre of a row over remarks made to the BBC regarding the inclusion of David Millar in the GB Olympic road race team.
Wiggins’ comments, which he insists were taken out of context, were made as Team Sky held a media day in London yesterday.
With the BBC focusing on just a small part of what Wiggins said in an article published on its website – his views on the abstract issue of the morals surrouding whether Millar should allowed to compete, but not his reflections on the reality of the situation – it’s understandable why the rider feels aggrieved.
Indeed, he had gone on to say of Millar, “if he’s eligible, he’s eligible, we’ll use him.”
In an article headed, “Bradley Wiggins says David Millar's Olympic ban is right,” the BBC quoted Wiggins as saying, "From a purely selfish point of view, it would be great to have Dave on the start line.
"But [morally] he should never be able to do the Olympics again."
Wiggins took to Twitter immediately after the article was published a little after 3.30pm yesterday afternoon to say: “Cheers BBC Sport, you got me, not quite what I said was it,” adding shortly afterwards, “I DON'T HAVE AN OPINION ON IT!”
The damage, however, was already done. Other media outlets immediately seized on Wiggins’ apparent comments. Articles from The Sun and the Express even presenting the issue as potentially causing a rift between Wiggins and his new team mate Mark Cavendish, who has said that he believes Millar has redeemed himself and should be allowed to take part in the Olympics. Only the Guardian focused on Wiggins’ subsequent clarification.
The background to Wiggins’ remarks is the forthcoming case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that will rule on the validity of a British Olympic Association (BOA) bylaw that effectively hands a lifetime ban from competing in the Games to British athletes who have served doping bans.
Should the BOA lose that case, there would be no barrier to Millar, banned for two years between 2004 and 2006, being selected for the Olympics.
Given the vital role that Millar played as Great Britain’s road captain when Mark Cavendish won the world championship, there is a compelling case to select him for London 2012 should he be eligible.
Helpfully, the BBC article includes an unedited video of the relevant section of the interview with Wiggins, and while it the accompanying article is quoting words that Wiggins said, it ignores other remarks that add to and clarify those comments. The video, however, enables his comments to be put in context.
Quoted in the BBC article, Wiggins said: "Sometimes we speak very selfishly really and it's easy to bury your head in the sand and forget about everything else.
"To have Dave in the team purely from a performance point of view, it would be fantastic for Mark [Cavendish in terms of] trying to win the Olympic Road Race.
"It would take the pressure off me having to do a massive job, because I can think about the time trial.
"But from a moral point of view, from what cycling is trying to achieve, from what cycling's been through the last few years, for what the Olympics stand for, he should never be able to do the Olympics again.”
What he said next was omitted from the article.
“It’s like a mixed camp. I don’t have an opinion on it. I don’t really care about it any more to be honest.
“But I used to care about that sort of stuff and then I used to worry myself sick about what I should say, what I shouldn’t say, and then I just get asked more questions about it. I just concentrate on myself now.
“Cycling’s been so messed up in the past, with the ongoing cases, Contador, things like this,” he added.
Wiggins’ next comment did make it into the article.
"The fact that we're still talking about it almost nine [actually eight] years after Dave first got banned for it shows how behind the times perhaps we are.”
The BBC article skipped the crucial words that followed, “A decision needs to be made either way,” before quoting Wiggins for the final time, “If there's an inkling that someone can get back in, there's already a fault in the system."
In the video interview, Wiggins goes on: “Who knows what’s right for anyone else? As I say, we all speak for selfish reasons at times but I just concentrate on my own thing now.”
The interviewer put it to Wiggins that his comments put him at odds with Cavendish, a claim he counters.
“I don’t disagree with him. I think that Mark agrees with what I say really in that from purely thinking about Mark winning the Olympic road race, he [Millar] should be in that team with us, he was at the world championships, he’s been competing for Great Britain for the last five or six years now.
“If he’s eligible, he’s eligible, we’ll use him. If he’s not eligible, he’s not eligible. I don’t think it matters what anyone’s opinion is, because opinions don’t mean anything any more.
“I think it’s more a case of what the rules are and if he is allowed to ride, he’s allowed to ride, if he’s not allowed… If it’s this kind of zone where he’s always in between and it’s going on and on and on, when’s the decision, the end of next month or whatever, it’s just an ongoing saga and it becomes a saga.
“It’s really just one or the other. I think we haven’t really got time even to worry about it or give an opinion. Mark gave an opinion and he’s climbing the walls because of all the press out there.”
Since returning to the sport in 2006, Millar, who yesterday celebrated his 35th birthday, has become a leading anti-doping campaigner, aiming to help young riders avoid the pitfalls that led to his own use of performance enhancing drugs. He site on the World Anti-doping Agency’s athletes' panel.
He and Wiggins were of course team mates at Garmin-Slipstream when the latter rode to a surprise fourth place overall at the Tour de France in 2009, though within months he would leave for Team Sky.
In his autobiography published last year, Millar said, “I took the whole affair badly.” He said he had accepted a pay cut to enable the team to match Sky’s offer, but added: “Inevitably, Brad eventually left. He didn’t thank us, nor did we feel we were given the respect we were due. I have found it hard to forgive him."
He also recounted how in 2007, when Wiggins was riding for his own’s former team Cofidis, Millar had given him a t-shirt from his team at the time, Saunier-Duval, so Wiggins could slip away from the team hotel anonymously after Cofidis withdrew from the Tour de France following a police raid in the wake of Christian Moreni failing a doping control.