David Millar: Cycling has already become clean

Poacher turned gamekeeper says there's no need for all the admissions of doping now

by Sarah Barth   November 3, 2012  

David Millar MSR 2012 © Simon MacMichael

David Millar, the cycling world's poacher-turned-gamekeeper, has outlined his vision for a drug free new beginning for pro cycling.

Millar, 35, who now takes part in the World Anti-Doping Agency commission, was banned from the sport between 2004 and 2006 for EPO misuse.

But although he takes a dim view of cheats, it's all the new admissions coming out of the woodwork that are angering him.

"That's what is pissing me off no end," Millar told Herald Sport. "The fact we are having to regurgitate all this stuff when the sport is actually clean now. When I say clean, it's not 100% clean, but you can win the biggest races clean now, which wasn't possible a few years ago. That's a massive leap forward .

"It's something we have been working really hard at, chipping away inch by inch to get to where we are today. It feels like the perception of our sport has been shot back 10 years, which isn't just."

Perhaps Millar's comments are to be expected, given that he's never made a secret of his disappointment that he can never be a part of Team Sky, given his cheating past.

Sky stipulate that all the team's riders and other staff sign an contract stating they have no past or present involvement in doping. In recent days this has led to the departures of Bobby Julich and Steven de Jongh, both of whom admitted to past incidences.

"They are in a position where they have a zero tolerance policy and have to fully enforce it," said Millar. "Their policy is different from everyone else's, but it's still good for the sport. They are a new team, they can act differently, but for most of us it's not as simple as that. We have to deal with the past and live with it.

"Two of the teams that are doing the most, albeit in completely different ways, are mine and Sky. The majority of teams aren't doing anything, they aren't even acknowledging what is going on. Our teams are in the firing line when we are probably two of the only ones working hard to make a difference.

"We stand together," he added. "We have different outlooks on it, but that doesn't mean we aren't following the same hymn sheet. We all have to adhere to a clean vision. Each team has a different culture and history, but as long as we have the same ultimate goal, that's what matters."

Millar now rides for Garmin-Sharp, where his team-mates, David Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson were key witnesses in the USADA report that was central to the Lance Armstrong judgement.

Speaking about them, and the six-month bans they have incurred thanks to their admissions of doping, he said: "We were all aware of each other's pasts in some way.

"If you are above a certain age and have been on certain teams, it's not rocket science. It has always been like that within the sport, but it wasn't something you would talk about. They are mistakes, it's not something you are proud of.

"We didn't have deep and meaningful conversations, asking about each other's doping pasts. What I knew about them was that they had never been recognised from the peloton as being abusive, serial dopers. Within the peloton you know who's who and who does what. You know who the ring leaders, instigators and hardcore element are – and the guys who were the fringe, who made mistakes and regret it.

"I always knew those [Danielson, Vande Velde and Zabriskie] were the guys on the fringe, that they weren't the real bad guys, as many of us weren't. It wasn't a surprise, but they weren't details we had ever spoken about."

And as for Millar - how much longer has his own career got to run? "It's up in the air about how much longer I'll do as a pro, but I'll definitely still go on until then," he said.

"After that I'll make the decision about how much further I'll go and if I do [continue riding]. The Commonwealth Games is something I can't wait for. I think it will be great fun, especially after the Olympics this year. It will be a similar sort of feeling in Glasgow."

But unlike many around the sport, Millar is in no rush to unseat UCI president Pat McQuaid over the whole affair.

He said: "You have to understand, if we are being pragmatic about the sport's politics, if Pat goes who takes over? Although he has incredibly strong ties to Hein [Verbruggen], the bottom line is that, under his watch as UCI president, the sport has got a lot cleaner, so we can't take that away either. Pat has got to restore our faith in him, which I think he can do, but he has to figure out how, because, at the moment, we are all very disillusioned."

21 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

This stuff is being dealt with now, because it wasn't dealt with back then. That this harms the sport's image now is unfortunate, but not dealing with it just kicks the snowball further down the hill - where it might end up bigger.

Further, it's far from clear the sport is anywhere near clean. The 2010 Tour winner tested positive. This year's Vuelta had a couple of quite unrepentant convicted dopers as top contenders. Pro riders, including at least one big name, have tested positive in the 2012 season. Is the sport clean, or have the dopers just another step ahead(as they usually are - except for those rare periods around when there's been breakthrough in testing methods)?

It's very hard, for those outside the sport, to be as confident as David that it's cleaner now. And that's the crux of the problem: restoring confidence. Actual change is needed. E.g.:

  • Do something to control and restrict the medical involvement in the sport. Why do these riders need private doctors following them from hotel to hotel at races? I'd rather they did it with no such support, even if it meant they went slower (indeed, that'd be a good thing).
  • Do something to reduce the financial incentives to dope. That means reducing the huge disparities in income between the stars of the sport and the hacks. It means giving teams guaranteed shares of the income, so they're not living perilously, dependent solely on satisfying sponsors with results.
  • Do something to spread the blame. The riders are not doping on their own. It's the system around the riders that encourages, aids and/or turns a blind eye. Staff must be punished when they are found to have aided or ignored doping. Teams must be punished when their systems to detect and prevent doping are found lacking. Teams are best placed to monitor riders regularly.
  • Ramp up testing prior to competition. Day of competition testing isn't enough, when drugs exist that are only reliably directly detectable for hours but have subtle physiological effects that may last for weeks.
  • Do something tangible about breaking omerta. Give some positive incentives for giving information, beyond just "reduced sentence for your doping". E.g. perhaps financial rewards or UCI team points for uncovering doping may be worth-while.
  • Build data-collection for anti-doping science into the sport. Make blood profile data openly available, at least in some form, after each season has ended. Ask the scientists what their wish-list is.

etc..

Just saying "things have changed, the sport is cleaner now" isn't going to work anymore David. Your sport need to make substantial changes that demonstrate things have changed to outsiders.

posted by Paul J [553 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 16:14

like this
Like (2)

No... David is right... Ricco agrees and says he should be able to ride again! Devil

posted by dino [57 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 17:10

like this
Like (2)

Paul J wrote:
This stuff is being dealt with now, because it wasn't dealt with back then. That this harms the sport's image now is unfortunate, but not dealing with it just kicks the snowball further down the hill - where it might end up bigger.

Further, it's far from clear the sport is anywhere near clean. The 2010 Tour winner tested positive. This year's Vuelta had a couple of quite unrepentant convicted dopers as top contenders. Pro riders, including at least one big name, have tested positive in the 2012 season. Is the sport clean, or have the dopers just another step ahead(as they usually are - except for those rare periods around when there's been breakthrough in testing methods)?

It's very hard, for those outside the sport, to be as confident as David that it's cleaner now. And that's the crux of the problem: restoring confidence. Actual change is needed. E.g.:

  • Do something to control and restrict the medical involvement in the sport. Why do these riders need private doctors following them from hotel to hotel at races? I'd rather they did it with no such support, even if it meant they went slower (indeed, that'd be a good thing).
  • Do something to reduce the financial incentives to dope. That means reducing the huge disparities in income between the stars of the sport and the hacks. It means giving teams guaranteed shares of the income, so they're not living perilously, dependent solely on satisfying sponsors with results.
  • Do something to spread the blame. The riders are not doping on their own. It's the system around the riders that encourages, aids and/or turns a blind eye. Staff must be punished when they are found to have aided or ignored doping. Teams must be punished when their systems to detect and prevent doping are found lacking. Teams are best placed to monitor riders regularly.
  • Ramp up testing prior to competition. Day of competition testing isn't enough, when drugs exist that are only reliably directly detectable for hours but have subtle physiological effects that may last for weeks.
  • Do something tangible about breaking omerta. Give some positive incentives for giving information, beyond just "reduced sentence for your doping". E.g. perhaps financial rewards or UCI team points for uncovering doping may be worth-while.
  • Build data-collection for anti-doping science into the sport. Make blood profile data openly available, at least in some form, after each season has ended. Ask the scientists what their wish-list is.

etc..

Just saying "things have changed, the sport is cleaner now" isn't going to work anymore David. Your sport need to make substantial changes that demonstrate things have changed to outsiders.

-Medical attention is essential for professional athletes... they are paid to perform and medical issues from a common cold to something more serious affect this.

-Yeah.. communism works... lets take all the money and divide it up equally so it doesn't matter who wins.

-Spreading the blame doesn't work.. one rogue athlete could ruin it everything for a team if you're going to punish them too.

-testing is fair enough

-already in effect -> look at all Lance's ex-team-mates who testified against him.. they've got reduced punishments

-make blood data available? never going to happen.. and I don't see any benefit.

The thing that needs to change is the organization in charge of cycling.. nothing is going to happen until the UCI has a refresh and some new faces are brought in to tackle the issues.

posted by ALIHISGREAT [109 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 17:48

like this
Like (2)

chaps, not to major but can you use a different picture of david millar next time. keep it current etc

posted by russyparkin [579 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 20:30

like this
Like (3)

I dont see how the sport can draw a line under this so easily. The idea that you can win clean does not stack up on recent Tours - 2010 Contador wins, but is removed due to doping, and 2009 Armstrongs 3rd place has been removed for doping. How can the sport move on without explaining why Contador is allowed to keep the 2009 win while Armstrongs teammate, while at the same time accepting USADA's findings on Armstrong and doping being rife in his team

posted by fiftyacorn [91 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 21:16

like this
Like (4)

This millar bloke is such a bloody hypocrite, no mate it's not clean, cos you're still riding, cheating bar steward!!

posted by Karbon Kev [667 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 21:17

like this
Like (2)

Karbon Kev wrote:
This millar bloke is such a bloody hypocrite, no mate it's not clean, cos you're still riding, cheating bar steward!!

I have never, ever understood this viewpoint about DM.

Do you really believe that people can't change? That every doper should be banned for life?

Have you never done anything you regretted? Were you never young and stupid and made a mistake?

David Millar was a young professional who made a mistake. He has turned his life around and now rides clean. The regret for what he did is clear, and he has dedicated his life since to trying to prevent any more young professionals from being inducted into doping practises, and cleaning up the sport. But people like you think people should be infallible, think nobody should be forgiven. You just can't stop hanging the albatross around the neck of a man who made a mistake.

Stewie

posted by stewieatb [298 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 21:36

like this
Like (4)

ALIHISGREAT wrote:

-Medical attention is essential for professional athletes... they are paid to perform and medical issues from a common cold to something more serious affect this.

They still don't need private medical support and dedicated doctors. Let them use neutral doctors. Provide a neutral pool of medics and doctors, not paid directly by any 1 team.

ALIHISGREAT wrote:

-Yeah.. communism works... lets take all the money and divide it up equally so it doesn't matter who wins.

I didn't say equally, I said less inequally.

ALIHISGREAT wrote:

-Spreading the blame doesn't work.. one rogue athlete could ruin it everything for a team if you're going to punish them too.

Some amount of proportionality should still be there. However, it's not right that team principals can deliberately not look and get away with it.

ALIHISGREAT wrote:

-already in effect -> look at all Lance's ex-team-mates who testified against him.. they've got reduced punishments

That's only an incentive for riders who already stand to lose. It doesn't do anything to encourage others to come forward.

ALIHISGREAT wrote:

-make blood data available? never going to happen.. and I don't see any benefit.

Ask the scientists if routine data publication would help. My impression is that while there's some data available, there's far from enough.

posted by Paul J [553 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 23:19

like this
Like (4)

russyparkin wrote:
chaps, not to major but can you use a different picture of david millar next time. keep it current etc

He can't have changed that much in six months Thinking

Though Garmin's kit has, of course Wink

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [7894 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 23:35

like this
Like (4)

stewieatb wrote:
Karbon Kev wrote:
This millar bloke is such a bloody hypocrite, no mate it's not clean, cos you're still riding, cheating bar steward!!

I have never, ever understood this viewpoint about DM.

Do you really believe that people can't change? That every doper should be banned for life?

Have you never done anything you regretted? Were you never young and stupid and made a mistake?

David Millar was a young professional who made a mistake. He has turned his life around and now rides clean. The regret for what he did is clear, and he has dedicated his life since to trying to prevent any more young professionals from being inducted into doping practises, and cleaning up the sport. But people like you think people should be infallible, think nobody should be forgiven. You just can't stop hanging the albatross around the neck of a man who made a mistake.

Totally agree! The fact that Dave Millar says that cycling is clean(er) now gives me a lot more faith in the sport than I had yesterday. It was through his book that I made my own conclusions that Armstrong was doped up to the eyeballs back in the day, even before I read Hamilton's book later.

If someone like Vino or Valverde had made that claim I'd have completely ignored it but I trust DM because of what he's done for the credibility of the sport since he made those mistakes.

Sq

Squiggle's picture

posted by Squiggle [414 posts]
4th November 2012 - 0:23

like this
Like (2)

Maybe establish a pool of doctors and health care professionals that are paid by contributions from all teams and the governing bodies of sport and cycling. No allegiance to any one team or rider.They could travel together much like a team. Autonomy would promote an unbiased approach and provide transparancy. Additionally, some parity in saleries, with minimum base saleries, would be beneficial as well.But there needs to be harsh penalities with severe consequences for any violations going forward.

Michael R. Smith

posted by American tifosi [37 posts]
4th November 2012 - 6:05

like this
Like (3)

Well, supposed watershed moments have come up before (remember Festina?) and everybody wrung their hands and said how terrible it was and then went straight back to doping.
Up until a couple of weeks ago there were people who would jump down your throat for even the slightest suggestion Armstrong doped.
, after the Bassons and Simeoni incidents there could be no doubt, and I mean ZERO that the sport was awash with drugs but people believe what they want to believe and that includes, for some, "relax! everything's fine now.."
It may sound overly-cynical, but professional cyclists (just like all professional athletes) are like tax-evaders- they'll exploit any tiny loophole to gain an advantage. Unfortunately that means you simply have to get extremely tough and assume the worst the whole time.
It may be a bit uncomfortable for people like Millar and fair enough, the sport is cleaner, but it's really the only way.
Sky's policy is spot on.

posted by ElCynico [15 posts]
4th November 2012 - 6:19

like this
Like (4)

Well I'm with Dai Millar on this subject! Spoils the sport - all this regurgitation; and holier than thou attitudes posted on forums.

Let those without sin; and there but for the grace, etc.

posted by Mostyn [400 posts]
4th November 2012 - 9:52

like this
Like (2)

has he paid back the money he won from cycling wen he doped or not, he,s making thousands off people buying his book, as are the rest of the dopers,(mite not b sqeeky clean myself, but never made money off my misdemeanours, if u want to read his book go to library and borrow it, no cost and he gets none of ur hard earned money, ban them for life and make them work for a living like the rest of us have to

posted by issacforce [203 posts]
4th November 2012 - 12:18

like this
Like (1)

The self professed cycling vigilante turns political pragmatist, with a veiled threat "Pat has got to restore our faith in him, which I think he can do, but he has to figure out how"

David Millar has always saved his heaviest fire for Verbruggen and as he is only an honorary post these days (despite having suspected influence at the top) sacrificing him in a clean up is not going to cause too many waves.

However, David Miller does possibly sense how the various national cycling federation see the UCI situation. His comments probably reflect a view on Pat and that what the UCI needs more than a new president (this is not a defence of Pat McQuaid) is restructuring.

Certainly its current structures encourage the appointment of of strong charismatic (dictatorial?) leadership. Which does allow cycling to benefit from their strengths but, and it is a big but, the sport also suffers from their weaknesses

THE ONLY WAY IS BIKE

posted by lushmiester [156 posts]
4th November 2012 - 14:00

like this
Like (2)

Never claimed and extra couple of miles on your expenses? never bunked off 15 mins early? Never taken a sicky? Never driven down the motorway at 90 because everyone else is (or because no-one's looking), never used a phone while driving?

There are many "mistakes" that normal people make...

Put yourself in this position - you're a bloody great amateur, winning lots, you turn up in the pro peloton and get smashed day after day by people drugged up, it is "normal". You know it isn't right, but everyone else is doing it and your life is cycling.

What would you do?

posted by AlanD [12 posts]
4th November 2012 - 14:01

like this
Like (3)

AlanD wrote:
Never claimed and extra couple of miles on your expenses? never bunked off 15 mins early? Never taken a sicky? Never driven down the motorway at 90 because everyone else is (or because no-one's looking), never used a phone while driving?

There are many "mistakes" that normal people make...

Put yourself in this position - you're a bloody great amateur, winning lots, you turn up in the pro peloton and get smashed day after day by people drugged up, it is "normal". You know it isn't right, but everyone else is doing it and your life is cycling.

What would you do?

stick my arm out and say 'i cant look as needles make me pass out'

i genuinely want to try epo. see how good it is on a proper amateur like myself.

posted by russyparkin [579 posts]
4th November 2012 - 19:23

like this
Like (4)

russyparkin wrote:
AlanD wrote:
Never claimed and extra couple of miles on your expenses? never bunked off 15 mins early? Never taken a sicky? Never driven down the motorway at 90 because everyone else is (or because no-one's looking), never used a phone while driving?

There are many "mistakes" that normal people make...

Put yourself in this position - you're a bloody great amateur, winning lots, you turn up in the pro peloton and get smashed day after day by people drugged up, it is "normal". You know it isn't right, but everyone else is doing it and your life is cycling.

What would you do?

stick my arm out and say 'i cant look as needles make me pass out'

i genuinely want to try epo. see how good it is on a proper amateur like myself.

Me too! I'm going to do a blood transfusion for my next hilly Cat 3/4*

*I'm not really!

Sq

Squiggle's picture

posted by Squiggle [414 posts]
4th November 2012 - 21:58

like this
Like (4)

stewieatb wrote:
Karbon Kev wrote:
This millar bloke is such a bloody hypocrite, no mate it's not clean, cos you're still riding, cheating bar steward!!

I have never, ever understood this viewpoint about DM.

Do you really believe that people can't change? That every doper should be banned for life?

Have you never done anything you regretted? Were you never young and stupid and made a mistake?

David Millar was a young professional who made a mistake. He has turned his life around and now rides clean. The regret for what he did is clear, and he has dedicated his life since to trying to prevent any more young professionals from being inducted into doping practises, and cleaning up the sport. But people like you think people should be infallible, think nobody should be forgiven. You just can't stop hanging the albatross around the neck of a man who made a mistake.

I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Wish the universe could expunge all the mean spirited, unforgiving and intolerant people that litter the world.

Pepita rides again!

posted by pepita1 [174 posts]
5th November 2012 - 19:19

like this
Like (3)

pepita1 wrote:

Wish the universe could expunge all the mean spirited, unforgiving and intolerant people that litter the world.

+1.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
5th November 2012 - 23:43

like this
Like (4)

AlanD wrote:
There are many "mistakes" that normal people make...

But it's much easier to hate than to try to understand.

russyparkin wrote:
i genuinely want to try epo. see how good it is on a proper amateur like myself.

I remember reading a long account by an amateur who tried it all, the improvement was significant. But it's not natural, and since it's against the rules you're lying to yourself as much as anything. You may even end up thinking "What could I achieve if I didn't take this sh*t?"

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1902 posts]
6th November 2012 - 16:31

like this
Like (1)