David Millar hints he may not compete in Olympics even if BOA lifetime ban overturned

Garmin-Barracuda rider tells BBC Radio Scotland he would be reluctant to go to London 2012 as "black sheep"

by Simon_MacMichael   March 28, 2012  

Millar pre-race (2012 Strade Bianche, © Philip Gale)

David Millar has told BBC Radio Scotland that he believes athletes who dope should be given a second chance and allowed to represent Great Britain in the Olympics. However, he hinted that even if the British Olympic Association’s lifetime Olympic ban on athletes who have served a doping ban of six months or more is ruled invalid by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), he may decline the opportunity to take part in London 2012.

Millar made his comments during a programme about the controversial ban called Cheats and Champions which will be repeated at lunchtime today at 2.05pm and again on Saturday 31 March at 12.01am and Sunday 1 April at 6.03am. You can listen to it online here. The BOA has asked the CAS to rule on the validity of the ban, and as we reported at the weekend, a decision is expected during April.

Speaking from his home in Spain, the Garmin-Barracuda rider, currently recovering from the broken collarbone he sustained during Friday’s E3 Harelbeke, talks openly about his use of EPO. He had previously documented his doping, which led to him receiving a two-year ban in 2004 and being stripped of the world time trial championship title he had won the previous year, in his autobiography, Racing Through The Dark.

The Scot insists in his book that he had already started put doping behind him by the time he was arrested by French police investigating the use of performance enhancing drugs within his former Cofidis team, who discovered two used syringes in his Biarritz apartment. Since his return to competition, Millar has become a passionate advocate of a clean sport and sits on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s athletes’ panel.

In the radio programme, Millar revealed how he was first tempted to dope with the assistance of an older team mate when he was “mentally weak” following what he describes as a “disastrous" Tour de France in 2001.

"I knew who he was and what he represented, and he represented doping. And that was it," he said.

Millar explained that for him, doping "was the difference between going to a race and hoping to win, and going to a race and guaranteeing to win. The reason I did it was because you could get away with it," he added.

Legal experts, as well as WADA itself, have questioned the legality of the BOA’s lifetime ban since a decision from the CAS last year in a case relating to an International Olympic Committee rule that sought to prevent convicted dopers from competing in the Games immediately following the expiry of their ban, which the tribunal ruled invalid, partly because it constituted a second punishment.

Millar himself believes that those who have served a doping suspension should be given a second chance. "People do make mistakes and I think they should be punished," he maintained.

"But they should be forgiven and given the opportunity for a second chance. We are human beings. Why should sports men and women get punished harsher than people in the normal world?"

However, despite the possibility that the Olympic ban may be lifted, Millar said the idea of competing at another games was something he had "signed off from a long time ago."

In Copenhagen in September, Millar acted as road captain to the Great Britain team that helped secure the rainbow jersey for Mark Cavendish, and the world champion himself has said that he would like to see Millar ride alongside him in the Olympic road race this summer.

Millar, as thoughtful and intelligent off the bike as he is elegant on it, is aware that even if he were free to ride, his past means that he would be under intense scrutiny; the mainstream press, one imagines, would have a field day with the story, while
there remain some within cycling who will never forgive him for having given in to the temptation of doping in the first place.

In a hint that he may choose not to take part in the Olympics even if the CAS ruling made him eligible for selection, the 35-year-old, who won Commonwealth gold for Scotland in the time trial in Delhi in 2010, said: "I am quite happy looking forward to 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

"That will be a much more joyful experience than me going to the Olympics as a black sheep. Even if it was to all go through now, and I was to go, I don't know if it would be a very joyful experience for me."

Indecision remains, however. "Is it a stronger message if I don't go, is it a stronger message if I do go and perhaps try to change people's opinion that forgiveness should be offered?" he reflected.

"I've nailed myself to a few crosses and I'm not sure if I'm prepared to go for the final big one on this."

Also speaking in the programme is the BOA’s chairman Lord Moynihan, himself a former Olympian, who reiterated the organisation’s zero-tolerance policy. "In sport the one thing you do not do is cheat. You know that. You know the consequences. You know you'll never be selected again.

"We don't believe that those who have knowingly cheated should be there."
 

12 user comments

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He's banned from Bradford-on-Avon? No boatman's breakfast at the Lock Inn for him then Big Grin

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7039 posts]
28th March 2012 - 15:12

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posted by jonwaldock [23 posts]
28th March 2012 - 16:44

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Can anyone explain CAS's stance to me in a way that makes sense?

BOA's lifetime ban for cheats should be the gold standard. Either they want to end the doping farce or they don't. There's no middle ground here, surely?

I like David Millar - as an athlete and as a spokesman. But he blew it, and his olympic participation should be a moot point. Surely a sovereign country should have the right to ensure they field a clean team, and a spotless reputation.

It's simplistic I know, but if the risks for being caught doping (ie - you're out of the sport, period. And sponsors can demand their money back) outweighed the benefits by a disproportionate amount, I'm fairly sure that would end the problem. Or at least reduce it to a near inconsequential level.

posted by Lacticlegs [124 posts]
29th March 2012 - 15:17

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I agree with CAS. He was a cheat, he is not now. So if you got a driving ban for speeding should you be banned from driving for life?

Andy

posted by jazzdude [48 posts]
29th March 2012 - 15:38

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@lacticlegs so people who dope shouldn't be given a chance to change?

do you feel the same way about other things in life - people who get banned from driving should all get a lifetime ban? People who steal from shops should never be allowed in any shops again?

I suppose my point is that the "once a doper always a doper" stance is particularly draconian. Once an athlete has served his/her punishment should they not be allowed another crack at the whip? People make mistakes, and at least in Millar's case, they show that by making the mistake they become a better person for it.

posted by pjt201 [96 posts]
29th March 2012 - 16:39

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I think part of Davids argument is that redemption is important because without it, where is the encouragement to reform?

For me it boils down to where you generally sit on crime and punishment, do you read the Mail or the Guardian.

I agree with David, an analogy would be a youth offender gets caught stealing, is severely punished and gets drawn into a vicious circle of reoffending because theres no longer any hope of a live lived clean due to the severity of the original punishment.

I agree with cheats being punished, but I also believe in redemption and forgiveness.

I think its vital he is selected for team GB, and that it sends a stronger statement to the world at large that a man can sink so low and still make it back.

posted by fxceltic [27 posts]
29th March 2012 - 16:45

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Lacticlegs wrote:
Can anyone explain CAS's stance to me in a way that makes sense?

BOA's lifetime ban for cheats should be the gold standard. Either they want to end the doping farce or they don't. There's no middle ground here, surely?

I like David Millar - as an athlete and as a spokesman. But he blew it, and his olympic participation should be a moot point. Surely a sovereign country should have the right to ensure they field a clean team, and a spotless reputation.

It's simplistic I know, but if the risks for being caught doping (ie - you're out of the sport, period. And sponsors can demand their money back) outweighed the benefits by a disproportionate amount, I'm fairly sure that would end the problem. Or at least reduce it to a near inconsequential level.

I'll try and keep this short (edit - I failed - sorry)

There is no CAS stance as such. Its job is to make rulings on matters of dispute, or as it is doing in the Millar case, to rule on the validity of existing rules.

In short, WADA has called into question the validity of the BOA bylaw; the BOA has gone to CAS to have the legality of it determined one way or another.

The BOA Bylaw 25 (from 1992) predates the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC, 2004), to which the BOA is a signatory.

www.wada-ama.org/Documents/World_Anti-Doping_Program/WADP-The-Code/WADA_...

In the introduction to the WADC, it is stated that it was formulated "To ensure harmonized, coordinated and effective anti-doping programs at the international and national level with regard to detection, deterrence and prevention of doping" and "to provide a uniform, global approach to the issue of doping, and how offenders should be punished."

Here's the crucial bit. Article 23.2.2 lists a number of Articles of the WADC and says "No additional provision may be added to a Signatory’s rules which changes the effect of the Articles enumerated in this Article."

One of those listed in Article 23.2.2 is Article 10, "Sanctions on Individuals."

So to put it simply, a signatory to the WADC cannot seek to provide an additional sanction that goes beyond what is contained in the WADC.

Part of WADA's argument therefore is that the BOA's bylaw constitutes an additional sanction, and that because the BOA is a signatory to the WADC, it is invalid and unenforceable.

The BOA's argument is that it is not a sanction, but rather a selection policy. Personally, I find it hard to believe that the CAS will agree. That also seems to be the opinion of most leading sports lawyers who have spoken about the case.

Olympic qualification and ultimately selection depend on the athlete's performance; there's a strong argument tat what they did a decade ago should not and cannot form part of that.

Look at the LaShawn Merritt case, which is what led to WADA claiming that the BOA Bylaw is invalid, and the BOA asking the CAS to rule on it.

Merritt, defending Olympic champion in the 400m, faced being excluded from London 2012 because he subsequently served a 21 month ban.

Rule 45 of the Olympic Charter, aka the Osaka Rule, said that returning athletes who had served a suspension of six months or more could not compete at the Games following the expiry of their ban.

But, the IOC is a signatory to the WADC. Moreover, the Olympic Charter specifically incorporates the WADC. So not only was the Osaka Rule invalid with the WADC, it was also, by extension, in conflict with the provisions of the Olympic Charter itself.

Again, in the light of that decision it's very difficult to see how the BOA can defend Bylaw 25 (and another point here is that it has been successfully challenged a number of times over the years, as well as being amended so it no longer applies to athletes whose ban resulted from Whereabouts infringements (eg Christine Ohoruogu - the woman's Beijing 400m champion, quite by coincidence).

The other issue you talk about is the length of ban. There are arguments for increasing the typical maximum ban for a first offence from two years to, say, four (the UCI among others has pushed for this in the past).

However, but there is one very solid reason why bans, certainly for a first offence aren't longer (or even for life) - you are in effect giving the athlete involved a very strong case under human rights law to argue that they are being denied their right to earn a fair living.

So the length of the ban is in effect a compromise, which on the one hand has to provide sufficient penalty and deterrence, but on the other doesn't give rise to challenges outside the sporting legal framework (worth noting that a huge amount of the Swiss Federal Courts caseload now is from appeals from CAS, very often kicked out, as happened with Valverde - it will only rule on matters of procedure etc).

One other point worth making - the likes of Moynihan and Coe and other of the more vocal supporters of Bylaw 25 competed in an age when doping was seen as a very black and white issue, divided between the good guys in the West, and the bad guys in the East. They also competed in an age in which (officially at least) the Olympics were for amateurs only.

Followers of cycling in particular know that doping doesn't respect national boundaries (although whether you get sanctioned for it may depend on where you come from...), and that no two dopers are alike - you have the ones who have doped since amateur days, ones who were encouraged, coerced even, by team mates and management, ones who remain enignmatically silent after returning from a ban, ones who continue to deny ever having doped (rightly or wrongly), ones who go onto dope again - and then you have someone who stands up, admits their mistake, and tries to help others avoid suffering the same fate.

Doping isn't black and white, but the law should be. For that reason, and the ones outlined above, I don't see how the CAS can rule that the BOA bylaw 25 is valid.

(nb All opinions are personal ones).

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7495 posts]
29th March 2012 - 17:07

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Can't get this to load up on the iPad shame I'd like to listen to it.

posted by Wookster [58 posts]
29th March 2012 - 18:21

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Dave Millar is a nice guy that has achieved a lot in his Cycling Career , Rico , was a nice Guy until he repeated his previous behaviour !
Who knows what goes through the minds of an athlete faced with choices and encouragement from " bent " contacts BUT it is necessary to have some rules and personally i think that if an Athlete aspires to representing their Country at any level then there should be some line in the sand they are not allowed to cross !
As any child grows and tastes success in Sport , their aspiration will be to emulate their " Heroes " ! No one wants to be a " Ben Johnson " , but , i guess they would be happy with the money he made along the way .

Knowing that " Doping/cheating " will disqualify you for LIFE of any hope of Olympic Glory , should deter most from taking that road ! Of course the " failures and weak minded " will take the easy route regardless of consequences BUT they will have given up on themselves already .
Each Athlete is alone in Competition and reliant on their skills and expertise in the Field of Play and many will feel that they could have done better after what they regard as a poor performance BUT doping will not have made any difference ! Of course their perception of what " Dope Products " could have added to their's or others performance is always questionable .

Testing the validity of this BOA Bylaw is only making the Lawyers richer , and , if it is abolished , then it will deminish Great Britain's enviable standing with other Nations .

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

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posted by skippy [372 posts]
29th March 2012 - 19:20

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jazzdude wrote:
if you got a driving ban for speeding should you be banned from driving for life?

Sounds like a good idea to me. It may change attitudes to speeding among drivers, which could save lives. 3 points and a fine rarely works, most people who get caught seem to do offend again at least once.

skippy wrote:
Knowing that " Doping/cheating " will disqualify you for LIFE of any hope of Olympic Glory , should deter most from taking that road ! Of course the " failures and weak minded " will take the easy route regardless of consequences BUT they will have given up on themselves already .

As you admit it won't work as a deterrent on those who are determined to cheat is there really any purpose in a lifetime ban? Dopers think they can beat the system in the first place or they wouldn't do it.

Having read Millar's book and a number of articles on this subject, I'm not sure where I stand on the BOA's lifetime ban. In fact, I don't feel I need to have an opinion either way. Is that such a bad thing?

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posted by Simon E [1780 posts]
29th March 2012 - 21:55

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Simon_MacMichael wrote:
Lacticlegs wrote:

"So to put it simply, a signatory to the WADC cannot seek to provide an additional sanction that goes beyond what is contained in the WADC."

So why does BOA not withdraw from WADA, if they feel that their 'selection criteria' are being deemed (probably rightly)as an enduring sanction against any Olympic athlete who uses performance enhancing drugs? At the end of the day they stand alone. All other signatories no matter how grudgingly are prepared to abide by the WADA rules. In the final analysis I would rather BOA be more open about their use of sanctions and the moral justification they must believe they have. As it is I'm not sure if I find the BOA stance brave or just pig headed.

However, I would suggest that these days performance enhancement extends well beyond just the use of drugs. Some nations/teams can afford to provide their athletes with specific training and training environments and or invest in kit design and technology with the intention of enhancing performance.

I am and will remain against drug usage in sport, when intentionally used to gain a performance advantage. I am also becoming increasing concerned about the other forms of performance aids that are so heavily reliant on a nations wealth. Financial doping will definitely put athletes from poorer nations at a disadvantage regardless of their natural ability; which I suppose makes any victory they gain more sweet but much harder to achieve.

THE ONLY WAY IS BIKE

posted by lushmiester [154 posts]
29th March 2012 - 23:53

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People that use drugs for some sort of performance enhancement in their particular field OUTSIDE OF SPORT are not treated in such a inhumane manner.

The buisness man that takes cocaine to give him the confidance to deliver his speech/make his sale/point, is not labeled cheat! yet he certainly has an advantage over his nervous competition.

When athletes belived it was not good to drink too much... water could become an effective performance enhancer for those who thought differently Thinking

Caught doping? say your a naughty boy & you'll never do it again, take your ban on the chin... you will be welcomed back by most.
But if you dare to ask what is going on? this is what everyone does, my team taught me to do this, I've done nothing wrong... like Riccardo Rico or even Dwayne Chambers then your name will be dragged through the mud & you will be hounded out of your respective sport.

Then the potential realization hits me! what if sport is still as dirty as we once KNOW it was.
Maybe we critisize the more honest athletes (who try to tell us the truth) because we cannot bare to believe our beloved sport hasn't really cleaned up at all.

I've always liked Millar as a man, but he is intelligent & realised a long time ago that you cannot give the Old school line, much overused by Armstrong 'I've never tested positive' bullshit... that just won't cut it these days.

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posted by Paulo [106 posts]
30th March 2012 - 15:52

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