Doping Controversy: British Cycling Defend Appointment of David Millar

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No, it’s not mountain biking, but it’s been the subject of fierce debate on Twitter, in the office, and on the forum today: British Cycling have confirmed that David Millar has been working with them on a voluntary basis, as a team mentor.

Millar was a professional road racer from 1997 – 2004, then 2006 – 2014, serving a two year ban inbetween for use of EPO. From 2008 he part owned the Slipstream-Garmin team, known for their firm anti-doping image, and has acted as an anti-doping campaigner. There’s an unanswerable question on most people’s minds when it comes to former cheaters though, and it feels unfair for everyone: Have they truly repented, or did they just get caught?

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British Cycling have put out a release, confirming his presence and defending their choice, naming David as “a much needed addition” and talking about his vast experience. They only briefly mention that “they know his past”. But are they taking the right approach?

Some don’t think so. Round the world record holder and CX race organiser Vin Cox has resigned his membership in disgust, calling British Cycling corrupt.

David Millar at the 2014 Tour de France.
David Millar at the 2014 Tour de France

Millar’s appointment raises a lot of interesting questions: Is it wisdom to discount someone’s experience on the basis of past sins? Or having proven to cheat, is that experience rendered moot? Is it better to have a confirmed former doper to talk to people about it than someone who maybe doped but got away with it? Does excluding ex-dopers from the entirety of cycling just sweep the wider problem out of sight? And should a convicted doper even be able to mentor young people like this?

Moreover, if he knew other people who were doping, does Millar have a moral obligation to name them? This question especially may seem clear cut, but allegations are very different to prove, and regardless of the virtue (or lack of it) in someone’s motives and methods, if they have even a whiff of strategic thinking or Machiavellianism about them, they’re unlikely to just blurt out that information. Especially if (as has been Millar’s stance) it’s the entire cycling culture which needs to change rather than the individuals who get caught…

Between drugs, mechanical fraud, ever improving prosthetics and other new technologies, twenty-first century sports will have to have a lot of conversations about things like this. With regard to David’s appointment by British Cycling, there is no obvious simple answer despite plenty of opinion-masquerading-as-fact flying around at high velocity on social media. So what do you lot think? Is this a sound pragmatic decision, or jobs for the boys? Let us know.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Comments (5)

    I think it is pretty straight forward.

    Everybody deserves a second chance. David Millar’s experience as a young, ambitious professional cyclist who succumbed to temptation / coercion to succeed in a sport where seemingly everyone was ‘doing it’ should be extremely beneficial to the next generation. This has been borne out by his open, and pretty forthright, position and advocacy work to eliminate doping from a sport we all love.

    So much better to embrace, and make use of, a repentant cheat than pretend that there isn’t still a problem pushing people to cheat.

    I think that Shane Sutton and SDW240 sum it up pretty damn well.

    I’ll second that too. Well done to British Cycling having the foresight appointing someone who they see as a positive influence on future talent.

    Thing is it’s all pretty closed shop. Brailsford is a long time Friend of Miller, Millers sister is the press officer corporate manager for Team Sky.

    Why not use someone like Nicole Cook?

    Despite all the fuss Dopers are still accepted, it still paid to dope from that generation.

    His biography was good, but I find his public persona just rubs me up the wrong way.

    Agree with sdw240, it’s a good appointment. He has loads of experience both good and bad

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