David Millar is no longer banned from competing at the 2012 Olympics, with the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) this afternoon officially announcing its decision that the British Olympic Associations (BOA) bylaw that bans convicted drug cheats from competing at the Olympics for life is illegal. British Cycling has said it will make no comment on speculation over Millar's potential inclusion in the British team.
Before the team is announced in June, Millar must now decide whether he wants to make himself available for Olympic selection - he was notably ambivalent on the matter in an interview with BBC Scotland earlier this year; and British Cycling needs to decide if they want to select him.
In its decision, which is attached at the end of this report, the CAS said: “The Bye-Law is a doping sanction and is therefore not in compliance with the WADA Code. The CAS confirms the view of the WADA Foundation Board as indicated in its Decision. Therefore, the appeal of BOA is rejected, and the Decision of the WADA Foundation Board is confirmed.”
Unsurprisingly given the pivotal role Millar played in helping Team GB propel Mark Cavendish to his UCI Road World Championship win last year British Cycling's Performance Director, Dave Brailsford has already said he is ready to pick Millar if the Olympic ban is lifted.
Besides that role on the road, Millar would also be a strong candidate to take the second slot in the individual time trial alogside Bradley WIggins; Millar won the world championship in that discipline in 2003, and although he was stripped of that title after confessing to doping the following year, he won silver behind Fabian Cancellara at Geelong in 2010 and is reigning Commonwealth champion.
If Brailsford doesn't already know the Scotsman's intentions, he will no doubt want him to make his mind up as quickly as possible.
"My job is to pick the fastest team, the best team that can win that race in London. It is not my job to decide if somebody is eligible or not," said Brailsford, who was at dinner with Millar in Biarritz the night the former Cofidis rider was arrested by French police and helped support him after his two-year ban for using EPO.
"I will get shown a list of people who are eligible, then I will look at performance and decide who is most likely to get the result and I will pick them," he told The Guardian at a Team Sky press day last week.
Reacting to the announcement of the decision by the CAS this afternoon, British Cycling said: "Our team for the Games is being selected in June and across all disciplines we’ll pick the team based on which riders are fit and available, and who we believe have the best chance to deliver medals. Ahead of that we won’t be speculating on who may or may not be selected. British Cycling will not be making any further comment at this time.”
The 'Millar question' has become something of a media distraction for the main protagonists in the GB road team in the run-up to the games - with the subject of the Garmin Barracuda rider looming over the last two Team Sky press days. Ten days ago in the face of sustained questioning about Millar during Sky's last press event Mark Cavendish forcefully reminded the assembled journos that they were there to talk about him.
That was not before though he also came out in favour of having Millar on the team - something he has consistently said he would be happy to see.
“I’d love David Millar to be on the start line with me,” he maintains. “He captained our team to the world championship last year in Copenhagen and I’d love him to be there in the Olympic Games.
“He’s a loyal team mate and very good physically, and he’ll make a massive difference to our team,” he continues, before going on to outline some of the specific qualities that Millar could bring to the team.
“There’s no radios allowed in the Olympic Games, it’s harder when you’re in a bike race than watching it on TV,” he explains. “You have to be able to read a race and know what’s going on, that’s where experience comes in.”
Sky's other star Brit and Olympic hopeful, Bradley Wiggins has been portrayed by the media at least as being slightly more ambivalent about Millar's inclusion in the team. Earlier this year the Team Sky presentation was dominated by a BBC interview with Wiggins in which he was reported as saying that Millar should not be allowed to compete at London 2012 - Wiggins said that his remarks had been taken out of context, something the video of the interview seemed to confirm but which still didn't stop a Twitter spat between Wiggins and Millar about the affair in the aftermath.
The news that the ban would have to go was given to the BOA by letter over the weekend informing the organisation of the CAS decision. In unoffical briefings BOA officials have been discounting their chances of success for some weeks now and that process was stepped up a gear on Sunday with various media outlets told, unofficially of course, that the decision has not gone the BOA's way while at the same time the organisation put out a statement saying it would be making no comment on the matter "out of respect for CAS and the Arbitration Panel."
In reality most observers outside of the BOA and very possibly inside it too knew the writing was on the wall for the BOA ban as long ago as last year when CAS ruled that the International Olympic Committee's so-called Osaka rule - which stopped any athlete banned for more than six months from competing in the following Olympics must be repealed.
CAS ruled that the Osaka rule did not comply with the binding WADA code - any sports organisation affiliated to WADA is bound by the code part of which sets out the sanctions that will be applied to athletes caught doping. As with Osaka, the CAS panel - made up of the same three members who ruled on that earlier case - has decided that the BOA's lifetime sanction amounts to an additional and illegal punishment.
While the BOA may have lost this battle and indeed possibly gone in to it knowing it would lose (despite claims to the contrary) it is likely that this isn't the end of the power struggle between WADA and the governing bodies of world sport. The BOA is already calling for the mandatory ban for a doping offence to be increased to four years from the current 2 while a number of Olympic associations and national federations in various sports are also questioning why the WADA code should effectively prevent them from picking the athletes they want, or more pertinently don't want, in their teams.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.