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."
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.