Garmin's David Millar defends Sky's Chris Froome on Tour de France doping questions

“Team Sky rode a perfect race,” says Garmin captain.

by John Stevenson   July 8, 2013  

David Millar (copyright Petit Brun via Flickr)

Garmin-Sharp rider and reformed doper David Millar has sprung to the defence of Tour de France leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) after Froome was asked questions about doping when he took the race lead Saturday.

After Saturday’s stage where he set the third-fastest time ever on the climb of Ax 3 Domaines, Froome was asked to confirm that his win was clean.

“100 per cent,” he said. “I think it’s normal that people ask questions in cycling given the history of the sport.”

Team Garmin-Sharp captain David Millar, who served a suspension in 2004 for doping and has since become a passionate advocate for clean cycling, later took to Twitter in support of Froome and Team Sky.

“Team Sky rode a perfect race, and for the record, I believe they are clean and deserve respect and admiration for it,” said Millar. “I don’t think they deserve to have mud thrown at them when they work so hard to do it right. It doesn’t seem fair.”

At Saturday’s post-race pres conference, Froome said: “I know the sport has changed. There’s absolutely no way I’d be able to get these results if the sport had not changed.

“For me it is a bit of a personal mission to show that the sport has changed. I certainly know that the results I get are not going to be stripped 10, 20 years down the line. That’s not going to happen.

“Anyone who actually spends a bit of time with the team, with us... see that this is months and months of preparation - going to these training camps in altitude all together, the support off the bike from the sport staff, from my fiancée, this is so much preparation that it’s not ‘wow’, it does add up.”

Froome’s fiancée Michelle Cound took to Twitter in support of her man: “Could I stand by, claiming how proud I am, supporting & cheering Chris all the way if there was even a possibility he was doping?  Hell no!”

Millar expanded his defence of Froome and Sky before Sunday’s stage. “We as a team at Garmin have been flag bearers for clean cycling,” he said. “We want to try to prove to the public and media that it is possible to perform at the biggest races clean. We love the sport so I will occasionally step in and defend someone who I think is being treated unfairly. Chris has dedicated his life to racing, he does everything right but Sky perhaps don’t defend themselves as well as they could. So I stepped in and did it.”

Team Sky looked far less superhuman on Sunday, and team manager Sir David Brailsford took the opportunity to defend his riders. “That's what we keep trying to tell everybody. People don't want to believe it. Maybe they will after today. The bigger picture may not be such a bad thing.”

Brailsford has been criticised for not publishing his rider’s power data. He told VeloNews that there was no point releasing data few people can interpret. “There is so much pseudoscience out there right now. If you release the data, there are very few people who can properly interpret and understand that data. All you’re going to do is create is a lot of noise for people who are pseudoscientists. You can even write magazines about it. They’re so wide of the mark in what they’re doing, it’s quite scary. You can do anything with stats. You can use that with a cynical view.”

Publishing the data also gives away the team’s competitive advantage, Brailsford said, and Millar agreed.

“If we had their numbers, we would be copying their training files and we'd know what to do to beat them," Millar said. "It's better for them to remain slightly enigmatic. If you have a recipe which obviously works, why would give away that recipe?

“I think transparency, as regards numbers, is very debatable. We’re a competitive, professional sport. It’s one thing satisfying the sceptics but at the same time you have to be professional, wanting to win races. It’s a tightrope Sky are walking, trying to be transparent but also keeping their training secrets.”

50 user comments

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Yes, people have their ups and downs. That's what they mean by being 'human'. The point with the modern athlete is that they are 'super-human', and they never have bad days.

Much of the drive to dope is the pressure to minimise downs, and maximise the ups. But (from what starts out being a sticking plaster) it becomes the norm and then we don't really know what we are seeing. As you note from your experience, you have highs and lows. But as I mentioned, these are ironed out. This isn't training, this is pharmacology. I mentioned Porte's drop-off as being a positive sign - though he probably worked his heart in the red zone for too long.

I think there are a lot of problems with the drug testing. It is only really a sticking plaster. The blood passports are a good idea, but equally subverted - look at Armstrong in 2009 and 2010.

Your argument about stopping play at 24 doesn't hold true though, particularly because of the 'ups and downs' you mention. The point is that the performances would be human, and not super-human. The suffering would be much more visceral and the destruction of riders would be more explosive.

I'm not saying you cannot enjoy what you have seen, just keep you mind open to what they say and do.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1066 posts]
8th July 2013 - 18:06

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Decster wrote:
So many want to look for excuses to explain a guy who was not going to get a new contract suddenly explodes to 2nd on the 3rd biggest race in the calendar. A blood disease that miraclously only needs to be treated in the off season and never when he needs to ride a GT. That he was climbing sideways before and got kicked of il Giro for hanging on to cars on a climb all point to a climbing talent.

But the idea the Sky train harder than everyone else is true, just like Armstrong, ...."busting his ass 6 hours a day on his bike, what are you on?"

The UCI have not changed, still control dope testing, the ASO fired the guy who wanted to clean up the sport and appoint Prudhommme, all the other teams are full of dope enablers and Sky are winning on bread and water.

So many fall for the tricks that history has shown to be nothing more than smokescreens.

Dont buy too much Sky gear otherwise it will be hanging beside your USPS, Disco, Astana, Radshack gear pretty soon. Wink


So what you are saying is that the whole of the Sky squad is doped up to the eye balls even though the team was set up on a profoundly ant-doping platform. You make these allegations on the basis of some cherry picking of results without any real evidence. Gossip and anecdote do not make a case unless you are a fake moon landing / 9/11 truther loon.

posted by Dropped [32 posts]
8th July 2013 - 18:28

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It seems by Decster's logic that we should just stop all pro racing for at least a decade, as anyone who beats anyone who used to be a doper must be a doper themselves ad infinitum.

And who appointed David Millar as the world authority on such issues? I am getting tired of his 'I am so sorry I doped, doping made me really unhappy, but please ask me about it all the time and buy my book,' schtick.

Between the S and the LOW

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posted by bikeboy76 [1165 posts]
8th July 2013 - 18:49

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Couple of observation of issues lost among the noise.

The Armstrong and Laiseka times in 2001 were set a couple of days after Alpe d'Huez, and the route to get there had more climbs (admittedly none of those as tough as the one preceding on Saturday).

But Ax 3 Domaines was the first mountain stage of this year's race, and one on which Sky clearly had a game plan.

Factor in other variables such as wind or the heat and a time gap of 12 years, and it's like comparing apples with oranges.

I'm all for healthy sceptcism; given what this sport has done to us over the years, it couldn't be otherwise, and its right questions are being asked.

Naked (and uninformed) paranoia, however, less so.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7867 posts]
8th July 2013 - 21:26

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The one thing I don't get is this: why, if someone is convinced that the winners are all doped, do they bother watching the racing in the first place? Unless they don't care about the doping. In which case, why comment so forcefully on the Internet about it?

It's much more mystifying to me than any of the doping data/stories/questions that get asked. Maybe their enjoyment of the sport is being artificially enhanced?

posted by step-hent [644 posts]
8th July 2013 - 22:54

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Simon_MacMichael wrote:
Couple of observation of issues lost among the noise.

The Armstrong and Laiseka times in 2001 were set a couple of days after Alpe d'Huez, and the route to get there had more climbs (admittedly none of those as tough as the one preceding on Saturday).

But Ax 3 Domaines was the first mountain stage of this year's race, and one on which Sky clearly had a game plan.

Factor in other variables such as wind or the heat and a time gap of 12 years, and it's like comparing apples with oranges.

add to all that the fact that i've seen no particularly credible evidence thus far for the timing of froome's climb, even less so the one from armstrong it's being compared to. i'm told it's the third fastest, but no-one really seems to be able to back that up with much

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7250 posts]
8th July 2013 - 23:03

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the Movi(e)star rider you are really struggle to write about is Quintana?

Do you know any teams or riders in this competition?

manolache

posted by manu_anfield1892 [4 posts]
8th July 2013 - 23:14

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Doping has shown to give you an advantage of 15% over the non doping competitors, so when Sky set out to find that 15% through legal means, be that training, nutrition, recovery, equipment etc, why is it a surprise that they get the results they do?

Team Sky and British Cycling is kind of one and the same, are you all saying that all the success British Cycling has achieved in the last few years is because of doping? There is something wrong with the UK when we are ready to try and destroy the achievements of some of our cycling greats.

Is anyone asking the same of Andy Murray? A superhuman achievement to win in straight sets, why aren't we all slating him? Just because other heros that may have been worshipped have let us down does not mean they all are...

posted by Fizzing Foxes R... [5 posts]
8th July 2013 - 23:36

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The peaks and troughs in form argument - that by rights, for every good day Froome has, he should have a bad day?
DO you think that all the team doctors just lounge around all day? That the sports scientists text their mums? The dieticians just eat Big Macs whilst waiting for the riders to come home? Or do you think that all day, every day, they're working to eliminate the uncertainty of a rider's form and physiology?
Sky pay attention to every detail, no matter how small. It all adds up. Marginal gains isn't just about wearing aero helmets. It really works.

posted by bashthebox [598 posts]
9th July 2013 - 0:20

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Simon,

In '03 they had a few more stages in them. Ulrich and Armstrong times that day would have clearly beaten *everyone* on '13, *except* Froome. Ulrich would have been 43s ahead of Porte, 1m01s ahead of Valverde, but circa 4 to 6s behind Froome. Armstrong would have finished 37s ahead of Porte, 54s ahead of Valverde, but 14s behind Froome.

Can we draw any direct conclusions from this? No. However, if fatigued dopers from '03 can trounce all of the '13 field bar one, you at least have to ask questions.

If Froome is genuine, then he is a stunningly exceptional athlete. Not just capable of humiliating other top athletes, but even beating the best of the blood-doped generation.

posted by Paul J [530 posts]
9th July 2013 - 8:25

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bashthebox: How do Sky keep these things secret? They have had riders move to other teams. Unless of course some of their marginal gains are being kept for a select group of their riders.

Also, citing "attention to detail" and better "science" as a team's advantage has unfortunate historical precedent, you do realise, don't you? Smile

posted by Paul J [530 posts]
9th July 2013 - 9:04

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7250 posts]
9th July 2013 - 9:07

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paul will have read that already, of course Nerd

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7250 posts]
9th July 2013 - 9:17

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another very useful one here, if you're interested: http://www.sportsscientists.com/2013/07/tour-rest-day-pondering-unanswer...

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7250 posts]
9th July 2013 - 9:29

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I don't know if he is protesting the issue too much or he is being asked about it too much, but reading about it over and over the story starts to smell bad. He needs some PR training from politicians. Reporter: 'Froome, what are you thoughts on people saying you're doping' Froome: "The Tour de France is a wonderful race with the greatest sport supporters around the globe." ...and repeat stale sound bites over and over as necessary, the reporters won't have anything to work with then.

posted by TeamCC [146 posts]
9th July 2013 - 9:47

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Soon the Sky fans will be shouting 'never tested positive' as they run out of excuses........quick Froome start a Bihazaria awareness charity with coloured bracelets, that should throw them off the scent for, oooh, about 15 years!

David Walsh was asked why he thought Armstrong was not the real deal. Walsh cited Armstrong's condemnation of Bassons. In that case Wiggin's condenmation of Landis should point to Wiggins as a doper, but Walsh chooses to ignore that.

When did the other teams stop doping so that Sky can beat them? Blood testing is down. Bernard Kohl had 200 tests under McQuaid and failed 1. This was due to Patrice Clerc, whom ASO removed as he didn't want Armstrong back in the TdF. UCI control testing and results in a room just down from McQuaid's office. So we can really trust all the Sky results coming out of Aigle cant we.

Fans dont want to see it for selfish reasons. It is simple, nothing in the sport has changed. We were told many times before the sport has cleaned up. They were lies then and now we are being told the same by the same people. Why believe them now? They lied because it benefitted them. Well it sure benefits them to lie again.

I am not waiting for a Sky rider to test positive before finding out Sky are doping. It doesn't work like that. Look at Armstrong. Look how many riders never tested positive or worse look how many tested positive after they left USPS and became a GT threat to Armstrong.

This is just some of the information that points to cycling not being a clean sport as it is still being run by the same people who oversaw the epo era, with the exceptions of a few who were part of USPS. Dr Ashenden has stated he believes that teams are still using dope. So again how does Sky beat the dopers without using dope.

Sky dope their A team. They have to to beat the doping teams of Astana, Movistar, BMC(exPhonak) and of course Radioshack to name a few.

posted by Decster [246 posts]
9th July 2013 - 10:44

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"There are very real ways of being able to show that you are clean, but I don't see anyone doing it." Colin Peyresourde

Please provide examples of these "...very real ways...".

Pepita rides again!

posted by pepita1 [174 posts]
9th July 2013 - 11:19

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Fizzing Foxes Rockets wrote:
Doping has shown to give you an advantage of 15% over the non doping competitors, so when Sky set out to find that 15% through legal means, be that training, nutrition, recovery, equipment etc, why is it a surprise that they get the results they do?

Team Sky and British Cycling is kind of one and the same, are you all saying that all the success British Cycling has achieved in the last few years is because of doping? There is something wrong with the UK when we are ready to try and destroy the achievements of some of our cycling greats.

Is anyone asking the same of Andy Murray? A superhuman achievement to win in straight sets, why aren't we all slating him? Just because other heros that may have been worshipped have let us down does not mean they all are...

I agree.

Pepita rides again!

posted by pepita1 [174 posts]
9th July 2013 - 11:32

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I don't know why I make myself read the 'comments' section because it is filled with cynical, mean spirited and depressing thinking. No wonder the world is in such a state of discord.

Pepita rides again!

posted by pepita1 [174 posts]
9th July 2013 - 11:47

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decster,

I gather there's been improvements in the sensitivity of the test for exogenous EPO, by a german WADA-accredited lab. Which have been rolled out this year. This is why they caught 2 riders at the Giro, IIRC.

*IF* there are riders whose performance has suddenly gone down, and *IF* it has to do with EPO doping, it may well be because they've had to lower or stop their EPO doping due to that test improvement. One of the effects of hormone abuse is that the natural production of that hormone will be suppressed (you have more than enough due to the doping after all). This suppression continues for some time even after the hormone intake stops - which means the levels can fall well below normal (never mind doping), which presumably can affect performance. In severe cases, natural production never recovers.

I'm not saying this *IS* the case, I'm saying it's *possible* (as are many other things).

posted by Paul J [530 posts]
9th July 2013 - 12:03

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Oh, there are non-hormone-abuse ways of stimulating red-blood-cell production, e.g. carbon-monoxide (CO) - which is how smoking can give you a performance boost (at expense of seriously increased risks of disease and degeneration):

http://bikepure.org/2012/08/5635/

posted by Paul J [530 posts]
9th July 2013 - 12:06

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Paul J wrote:
Oh, there are non-hormone-abuse ways of stimulating red-blood-cell production, e.g. carbon-monoxide (CO) - which is how smoking can give you a performance boost (at expense of seriously increased risks of disease and degeneration):

http://bikepure.org/2012/08/5635/

Living at altitude stimulates red blood cell production.

Pepita rides again!

posted by pepita1 [174 posts]
9th July 2013 - 15:21

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decster you are one seriously cynical dude. I read you as saying that it doesn't matter if a rider doesn't test positive because he'll be doping anyway. Right ho....if you say so.
So nothing in the sport has changed and all the rhetoric is meaningless drivel? Right ho....if you say so.
You show all the signs of being a control freak.
I'd get a life if I were you but thank god I'm not.

Y

posted by Y Phrunts [1 posts]
9th July 2013 - 23:16

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I'd say you can't tell anything from a single hill, because it all depends upon the past history and riding that went on from earlier that day to a few months, or even years before that. (The same goes not just for Froome, but for Contador and others also).

One must also consider whether a rider knew he was doped by his doctor. It have a strong suspicion that LeMond was doped by his doctor without his knowledge; the suspicion being the doctor having obtained prototype EPO just a year or two before the general release, it already having been in development for about 10 years (1989, 1990, not 85). Read LeMonds own words about his iron shots, and remember that while there are no other known cases of riders benefiting immediately from pure iron shots, iron must be taken in conjunction with EPO to allow new red blood cells to develop and make it effective:
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/cycling/1998/tourdefrance/tourdefrancea...
(search for "iron shot")

Admittedly seems unlikely that Froome could have EPO doped without his knowledge; EPO requires careful microdosing injection and all injections are now illegal.

In any event if he didn't dope, it sure throws a spanner in the idea that you can detect doping by power output up hills.

Personally I would LIKE to believe that drugs are unnecessary to actually achieve an individuals ambitions; anything that can be achieved with drugs can be achieved by human willpower, perseverance, and faith alone; but once the drugs are used, the doorway back is closed.

Charlie Horse

posted by ch [96 posts]
10th July 2013 - 3:55

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Just wondering could Froome be a freak/force of nature. One of those rare atheletes that has a physiological gift. Or are sky true professionals and use sports science in everything they do. A further question would the Sir Dai Brailsford risk everything for a maillot jaune. nah, think not as it destroy everything thats gone before. Sky cyclists train like swimmers!, which has big implications.

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [122 posts]
10th July 2013 - 8:28

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Takes me on average 1hr 10mins to cycle to work. The other day I did it in under an hour. Only one explanation - I must have been using EPO. Internet logic.

Ironbloke

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posted by ironbloke [61 posts]
10th July 2013 - 9:27

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I don't think Froome doped and from the way he has been exposed by Sky falling apart on Sunday, I can't even understand why anyone would have suspicions of systematic doping at Sky.

If he gets the top spot on this board of times up the Alpe d'Huez (especially on the second go round), I'll be more cycnical!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpe_D%27Huez#Fastest_ascents
Thinking

Dedicated cycling price comparison | http://www.leadoutbikes.com

posted by mckechan [177 posts]
10th July 2013 - 11:31

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Also, I think doping/cheating goes on in all sports, but I suspect that the levels of doping in cycling is less than generally perceived (i.e., "Every cyclist is doping") and in other sports, such as Tennis and Football, it is probably much more widespread than is generally perceived.

Dedicated cycling price comparison | http://www.leadoutbikes.com

posted by mckechan [177 posts]
10th July 2013 - 11:51

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Decster, what proof do we have that your comments aren't doped? Until you can prove you are not doping, your comments will have to be disregarded.

Between the S and the LOW

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posted by bikeboy76 [1165 posts]
11th July 2013 - 0:09

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You do get people who are naturally skilled but need the right training to bring it out, not drugs.

I have mentioned the likes of Messi and Ronaldo. No amount of drugs will give you the skill with a football that they have because its a natural ability. Perhaps Froome is of a similar breed and needed the right training / lifestyle regime to bring it out.

Yet again though we, as British, have a love of trying to put down anything or anyone who is successful in this country. To be honest its quite a sad reflection on who we are as a nation.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2652 posts]
11th July 2013 - 0:49

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