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

by Simon_MacMichael   January 5, 2012  

Bradley Wiggins on the TT start ramp, Dauphiné 2011 (© Photosport International)

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.

28 user comments

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I don't think he should be able to compete..

I don't see why "how he did in the WC" makes any difference..

I like zero-tolerance for doping like the BOA does. I think many countries should learn from it *coughs-Russia-coughs* an not only in cycling, but in all sports.

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posted by seabass89 [235 posts]
5th January 2012 - 12:31

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It's nice to see in this Olympic year the "olympic Broadcaster" doing so much to stir up disharmony and conflict within the team. Well done BBC!
Especially when the team members are more than able to fall out between themselves with no added assistance.

I too agree with the BOA lifetime ban and to be fair Millar himself has kept his own counsel on this issue, further to his credit. Ideally as seabass89 says other countries could learn from us but after the recent overturning of the lifetime ban for LaShawn Merritt and the BOA ban being ruled as in conflict with WADAs code maybe we should just all keep shtum until CAS have finally ruled?

posted by SevenHills [143 posts]
5th January 2012 - 12:44

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Millar put this up on Twitter yesterday:

Is the ceasefire broken between me & @bradwiggins ? Does the Copenhagen Treaty mean nothing? On my birthday of all days. Poo to you sir!

It's just the BBC misquoting and trying to get a story out of essentially nothing.
Doesn't help that one set of rules is different to the others. 2 year ban for everything except the Olympics so he's still free to ride Grand Tours and World Champs.

Difficult case though cos some people (like Millar) are fully redeemed and (IMO) should be welcomed back whereas others (list of names too long to recall here!) continue to deny and lie and claim they've done nothing wrong.

posted by crazy-legs [486 posts]
5th January 2012 - 13:14

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For the record, I think Millar has earned his right to compete in the Olympics - he stuffed up, but he's spent a long time fighting for the right side now and, because of that, I think he deserves a chance to compete for a place in the Olympic squad.

But the real issue here is Wiggins not being able to stay off the topic - he says 'I dont have an opinion on it' but he then gives one! If he really doesn't care either way, he should have said that and nothing else - he must know by now that a journalist is going to make a story out of what he says, and that if he doesnt want to be quoted, he shouldn't say it...

posted by step-hent [651 posts]
5th January 2012 - 14:19

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We have to have level playing field, not two sets of rules. A lifetime ban is too much.

Martin Balk

posted by Mart0023 [15 posts]
5th January 2012 - 14:37

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"Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.".

We all make mistakes. I've been reading David's book and have found it quite upsetting at times. I never realised that that sort of thing was happening in cycling. As someone on the outside I can take the attitude of "just say no" but if I try and imagine myself walking in David's shoes, who knows how I would've handled things. And that is the reason for the quote above.

Pepita rides again!

posted by pepita1 [174 posts]
5th January 2012 - 14:43

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pepita1 wrote:
"Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.".

We all make mistakes. I've been reading David's book and have found it quite upsetting at times. I never realised that that sort of thing was happening in cycling. As someone on the outside I can take the attitude of "just say no" but if I try and imagine myself walking in David's shoes, who knows how I would've handled things. And that is the reason for the quote above.

Ah. That's where you're going wrong. The shoes attach to the pedals. They're not so good for walking in.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
5th January 2012 - 17:22

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Coleman wrote:
pepita1 wrote:
"Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.".

We all make mistakes. I've been reading David's book and have found it quite upsetting at times. I never realised that that sort of thing was happening in cycling. As someone on the outside I can take the attitude of "just say no" but if I try and imagine myself walking in David's shoes, who knows how I would've handled things. And that is the reason for the quote above.

Ah. That's where you're going wrong. The shoes attach to the pedals. They're not so good for walking in.

Coleman, I just knew someone was gonna have a retort about 'walking in David's shoes"! And it was u!

Pepita rides again!

posted by pepita1 [174 posts]
5th January 2012 - 17:37

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step-hent wrote:
For the record, I think Millar has earned his right to compete in the Olympics - he stuffed up, but he's spent a long time fighting for the right side now and, because of that, I think he deserves a chance to compete for a place in the Olympic squad.

But the real issue here is Wiggins not being able to stay off the topic - he says 'I dont have an opinion on it' but he then gives one! If he really doesn't care either way, he should have said that and nothing else - he must know by now that a journalist is going to make a story out of what he says, and that if he doesnt want to be quoted, he shouldn't say it...

Agreed. He could easily have kept quiet until August.

Great Britain eh? What are we like?! We'll have a negative old wrangle about anything. I can see a podium place for Wiggins in the TDF being discounted as an unfair team effort by the mighty Team Sky with all their dastardly money and creepy organisational skills and an Olympic road race win for Cav being discounted as the other riders were tired after the TDF.

Bizarre.

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1031 posts]
5th January 2012 - 19:28

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A fine example of mis-representation of the facts. All journos are at it (yes, even you lot Road.cc) but then, to be fair we're all probably guilty of similar exaggeration and judicious editing.

Difference is, most of us don't have millions of readers/listeners/viewers picking up on what we've said and making judgements. About time the press started honest reporting and thought long and hard about how their 'facts' are presented before publishing/broadcasting.

Ticktock

posted by Michael5 [121 posts]
5th January 2012 - 19:59

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The legal system works on the basis of commit the crime, do the time, over. There are maybe a couple of crimes where "the time" may mean the rest of your life, or where there are some conditions imposed on your eventual release (e.g. sex offenders register). But this is way serious stuff, not trivia. In principle these people are let back out into society and have the opportunity to resume their life.

Move to the cycling scene, do you really ban someone for life because of this? I mean, come on, in the grand scheme of things just how important is this? The guy served his 2 years, leave him be. The direct loss of income, coupled with the time taken out of their time-limited careers, seems plenty to pay. Don't forget in Millar's case he was not only hit financially but forfeited a world title as a result of this, you might argue that he has been penalised more than most in any case.

If this non-story serves any purpose it is probably to remind Brad about keeping his mouth shut when reporters are sniffing around.

There was a thread on here at the time of SPOTY when it was claimed Cavendish gave boring interviews. Ever wondered why? While all this is going on he's tweeting about nursery furniture and steering well clear of this crap.

Pete

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posted by PeteH [159 posts]
5th January 2012 - 20:34

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You just cant say anything nowadays without it getting twisted and turned around so it resembles nothing like what you originally said.

This great country of ours loves to try and stuff it up people who try and do their best for themselves and the country.

Despite what Millar did (which i believe is totally wrong and basically cheating) he has served his ban and works tirelessly to try and right that wrong with a team which also works tirelessly to promote a clean sport.

You just have to look at the New Year Honours list ! a convicted drug dealer and gang member gets an obe or some other similar gong because he now works tirelessly to promote charities against drugs. We cant have it all ways now can we ???????????

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2669 posts]
5th January 2012 - 21:15

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Being a former olympic weightlifter in my stupid misguided youth,
I can confirm the following regarding banned substances.

#1 they provide an unfair advantage, either from decreased
recovery times and or direct aerobic or anerobic performance
benefits.
#2 to get the benefits you need to do the following:-
- work harder than before
- eat better
- hydrate more
- be very very aware of the risks (i.e. permanent injury or death)
#3. have the cash to pay for them (or somebody of who can - a team possibly)
#4. have talent
#5. they don't guarantee succes at all, thats still in the top three
inches.
#6. the training environment and peer pressure play an enormous part -
a clean team(camp) doesn't have drug cheats - its not tolerated. Being clean
is more expensive (and harder in every respect) as it requires extensive research and
more effort. Drugs are cheap and nasty shortcut.

Sto conclude, during millars cheating days - "getting a little
help" wasn't unheard of. The rewards, risks and pressures were
high, so he was either misguided, badly advised or both. Should he
ride in the olympics, yes. Why because he's a living example of harm
that drugs can and still do - this is his last chance, the sad thing is
he should have had many more.

At a guess that thought is burned into his bones.

one final thought, if darts were an olympic sport would
beer and fags be banned substances?

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [122 posts]
6th January 2012 - 0:06

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Irrespective of the argument about whether or not Millar should be allowed to take part, what really infuriates me about this whole affair is the irresponsible, simply terrible and biased journalism on display in the BBC article.

It's so typical of British journalism to try and find a story where there isn't one, or to try and cause controversy to make a 'good' story. The BBC don't even have the excuse of 'selling copies'. As a publicly funded corporation their duty is to be unbiased, but the article stinks of the kind of manipulative use of quotes and sources found in the tabloids.

Why is it that our media does this, rather than getting behind the sportsmen/women it should be supporting? Money-making is absolutely no excuse for the printed press, let alone the state funded BBC.

posted by McTag [36 posts]
6th January 2012 - 2:51

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I think Wiggo has put his foot in it here, but deliberatly so.
Despite what he says, reading between the lines he'd rather have a team built around him being a GC contender and leader rather than a team split between being a workhorse for flat stage sprints/supporting the GC contender.
Maybe he also thinks that despite all the celebration around Cav, that he in fact is the best cyclist in the land?
Cyclists eh.
I have faith in the management at Sky though and Wiggins is nothing if not professional on the road.
In terms of Millar, I think he's clever enough to know that saying nothing is best. I'll enjoy watching him ride for Garmin even if not for GB.

posted by pmr [163 posts]
6th January 2012 - 9:51

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Brad is entitled to say what he said its his opinion.

We should not forget that the drug culture that has been in cycling has cheated a lot of hard working cyclists.

Perhaps, David Miller should say something on the matter. I think David is alright and has shown a lot of courage to do what he is doing but the reality is he cheated.

Like it or not cheating/doping don't sit well with everyone and quite rightly so.

CycleGringo's picture

posted by CycleGringo [94 posts]
6th January 2012 - 11:12

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CycleGringo wrote:
Brad is entitled to say what he said its his opinion.

Except that he's now trying to claim he doesn't have an opinion! And that's it really, for me - Wiggo should either say what he thinks and stand behind it, or not say anything at all. It just seems like he said something, realised it wouldnt go down well, tried to back track and got caught out. Ah well, won't be the first or the last time - and I'm sure Millar is a big enough boy to handle himself in a tiff with Wiggo. By keeping quiet he certainly comes out of it looking more savvy than Wiggins.

Of course, if Millar does get picked, he might be challenging Wiggo in the TT - so maybe Wiggo doesn't want him there 'from a purely selfish point of view' after all.

posted by step-hent [651 posts]
6th January 2012 - 11:59

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I am dead set against ANY dopers participating in the Olympics. It seems some guilty foreigners are being allowed in and this to my mind is abhorrent. Let the Olympics be the ultimate sanction, life ban for ANYONE guilty of doping!

Meg

posted by charliegirl2008 [6 posts]
6th January 2012 - 13:28

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Totally agree witht he last comment.
Wiggo does seem to have an opinion on the Millar issue, let his mouth run abit then attempted to back track. The BBC just jumped all over it.

Has Millar ever publicly stated that he wants to compete in London 2012?

posted by bauchlebastart [83 posts]
6th January 2012 - 13:31

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Confused Why should professional athletes even be competing in the olympics Confused
....if it's a case of 'be damned' (for life) then let it be for everything...not just the olympics...
....or is it forgive (but not forget)???

Millar has been 'accepted' back in the ranks of cycling by many and is 'trying' to make amends for his wrong doing....he is clean...so in my opinion he should be allowed to represent his country. If not for financial reward - but just for national pride...he is quite handy on a bike after all....

The_Kaner
FREEEEEEEEDOM!

The _Kaner's picture

posted by The _Kaner [375 posts]
6th January 2012 - 15:06

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Am I correct in thinking that if Millar rode for another country he could be eligible to ride in the Olympics? If so, he should be eligible for GB.

Regardless of the work he has put in to right his wrongs, if he was to go to the Olympics, he would have every drop of Piss he produced tested to buggery, so there would be no risk or worry that he would start doping again.

posted by farrell [1302 posts]
6th January 2012 - 19:52

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I assume he's qualified for Malta (birthplace) and perhaps Hong Kong (where he grew up). Not sure where they would stand on the issue.

But he lives in Spain, so might qualify for them on residency.

I couldn't see the Spanish having a problem with someone who's served a drug ban riding for them.

Wink

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7915 posts]
6th January 2012 - 20:44

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farrell wrote:
Am I correct in thinking that if Millar rode for another country he could be eligible to ride in the Olympics? .

Yep, the BOA is the only Olympic body that enforces a lifetime ban. Which is the basis of the case that CAS has brought against them.

posted by Chrisc [138 posts]
6th January 2012 - 21:02

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I re4gard the BOA as a bunch of hypocrites. The original games were for amateurs not for professionals. They have ruined sport for the average man in the street, and as an unelected group don't have tehr ight to adjudicate.

Sián

posted by barogerl [26 posts]
6th January 2012 - 21:02

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They (wiggo+millar) do appear to put a pump in each others wheel from time to time... there must be some issues !!

BUT millar should be allowed to race in the olympics ... it's his last chance and that chain and ball bobbling along behind his rear wheel has been there long enough

ashy_2002's picture

posted by ashy_2002 [56 posts]
7th January 2012 - 11:33

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've just read David Millar's book and couldn't put it down. I've never sympathised with cheats but now realise it's not as simple as that. He's served his time and is doing as much as he can to change the situation. We all make mistakes and he wont make the same mistake again. He gets my vote. Smile

Geordie Legend
Being an old timer and new to the game, I'd just love it if I won these wheels! Let's hear it for the pensioners.They need all the help they can get!!!!

posted by John Molloy [10 posts]
7th January 2012 - 18:47

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I can't condone taking illegal drugs however lifetime bans serve no useful purpose. If David Millar was facing a lifetime ban for what he did I doubt he would have come clean about it. If the penalty for taking illegal drugs is the end of your career plenty of people would be prepared to take that risk and lie about it too.

In a similar vein as our most successful track and field athlete Linford Christie should carry the Olympic torch into the stadium. However, because of a failed drugs test after retirement that's not going to happen...

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [278 posts]
9th January 2012 - 9:31

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Hmmm, plenty of other candidates to carry the torch - in track and field alone, there's a few Brits who have had more Olympic success than Christie (though their might be some raised eyebrows if Seb awarded himself the gig) Wink

Sir Steve Redgrave has to be the obvious candidate though?

*checks* Blimey, Sky Bet even has a market on it... Tom Daley 10/1, don't all rush at once Wink

http://www.oddschecker.com/olympics/to-light-olympic-flame

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [7915 posts]
9th January 2012 - 11:27

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