Are you getting sick of reading AFP stories yet? It must be that someone is on vacation over there at VeloNews. Anyway, there’s plenty to expand on from the wire service story. For example, Millar states “There are a lot of idiots out there who think you can’t win anything without drugs, but we have to convince the young generation that this isn’t the case.” And it’s a very nice sentiment, but it ignores the factors that motivated Millar’s own drug use. The Scot admits here that he first began taking EPO simply because he “wasn’t going well” in 2001, years after he’d burst onto the scene, winning a TdF prologue and wearing the maillot jaune. The article goes on to describe how he cleaned up in 2002, but even after winning another Tour stage, when things got tough again, he went right back to drugs. Add to this some comments Millar made here, about his salary and wanting a “guaranteed” win at the ’03 Worlds, and it becomes clear that it wasn’t insecurity in his own abilities that drove Millar to cheat, but laziness and greed.
I respect deeply Millar’s decision to confess his drug use, but I think a spokesperson for “clean cycling” needs to be more up front about the reasons cyclists take drugs. Most pro riders who dope don’t do it because they feel they can’t compete without it; they, like Millar, want to make the wins come easier, and the hard times pass more quickly. There’s a famous anecdote that a journalist once convinced Jacques Anquetil and his Italian rival Felice Gimondi to do a relaitively unimportant spring race without using any drugs. After some convincing, the two agreed, and a few hours later they finished 1-2 in the race. So the journalist said “See? You guys can win, even withhout drugs. Are you going to race clean now?” To this, both riders responded “No, never again. It was awful. It took twice the effort to get our cadences up, and even then we were 4 or 5 kph slower than we normally go.”
But what do I know? I’ve never used performance-enhancing drugs and I’m not particularly good at riding, either, so I have precious little expertise in this area. Maybe a better reason for Millar not be a spokesman for clean cycling is his reportedly dirty mouth (search “sailor”). And, really, does “clean cycling” even need a sponsor? It’s already got Brad McGee (scroll to “McGee comes down”), and even then, some convicted dopers are still doing some positive things. Heck, even Sean Kelly, who recently lent his name to the premier Irish cycling squad, was busted twice at the dope control during his career. So why the rush be the example for drug-free riding, Dave? Why not try and take up Jalabert’s mantle, and become the example of professional cycling in general? Something tells me, it’s because you have trouble responding to setbacks and criticism.