David Millar has made himself available for selection for the Great Britain team at London 2012 following the overturning of the British Olympic Association’s lifetime ban for convicted dopers. Earlier this year, the Garmin-Barracuda rider had expressed doubts about whether he wanted to compete at the Olympics, worried that he might be perceived as a “black sheep” due to his past.
Now, however, it looks likely that he will act as road captain as Mark Cavendish aims to take gold in the road race on 29 July, the same role Millar undertook when helping the Manxman to his world championship win in Copenhagen in September last year.
The 35-year-old Millar would also be certain to line up alongside Bradley Wiggins in the individual time trial four days later; Millar took silver behind Fabian Cancellara in that discipline in the world championships in Geelong in 2010, and a few days later won Commonwealth Games gold in Delhi.
“I’m available,” Millar told the Times. “I spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I’ve concluded that if I can be of benefit to the team, I would be happy to help.
“The most rational thing is to leave it to the selectors to decide. If they think that including me might be in any way detrimental, even if, physically, I could be one of the strongest riders, I will respect any decision they make. But I think I can genuinely help in the road race, and that’s helping Mark.”
In 2004, Millar received a two-year ban after admitting using EPO, and was stripped of the world championship time trial title he had won in Canada the previous year. He was also banned for life from competing for Great Britain at the Olympics under the same bylaw that was ruled invalid and unenforceable by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in April.
After his return to the sport, Millar has become one of the leading voices in the peloton in the battle against doping ad has helped British Cycling and UK Anti-Doping formulate policies designed to help prevent young athletes from becoming involved in doping. He also sits on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s athletes panel.
Referring to his decision to put himself forward for inclusion in the Olympic squad, he said: “I have spent time fighting the idea of lifetime bans for a first offence and it gets confusing if I don’t make myself available."
But earlier this year, and ahead of the CAS ruling being announced, Millar had 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.”
“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?”
That he has gone for the latter option may be down to the support and encouragement of riders such as Cavendish, who said in April:“I’d love David Millar to be on the start line with me.
“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.
“There’s no radios allowed in the Olympic Games, it’s harder when you’re in a bike race than watching it on TV,” Cavensish added. “You have to be able to read a race and know what’s going on, that’s where experience comes in.”
British Cycling is due to announce its provisional team for the Olympics on 11 June, with the final selection being confirmed on 8 July.
Cavendish and Wiggins are automatic choices for two of the five spots in the road race, which must also include those riders targeting the time trial. On current form, Ian Stannard is also a shoo-in, as would be an in-form Millar.
Several riders, including Team Sky’s Jeremy Hunt, would be strong candidates for the final space, although it’s worth noting that following the world track championships in April, Ben Swift withdrew from the track squad for the Olympics to focus on helping Cavendish win on the road, suggesting he figures in Great Britain's – although that was before he broke his shoulder shortly before the Giro d’Italia started last month.
Ultimately, its now the sporting side of things that will determine whether Millar takes part in the Olympics, but like Swift, he has had to battle back from injury after breaking his collarbone during the E3 Harelbeke in March.
He is due to ride the Critérium du Dauphiné which starts on Sunday. “I had a few weeks out but I’m just coming in to my stride,” he said.
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.