Cycling: Millar faces a two-year ban in drugs saga

The Cofidis doping investigation makes Athens recede into the distance for Britain's top road cyclist

The minimal information available this week on David Millar's website says it all: just like its owner's career, the site has ground to a dramatic and unplanned halt. "We are waiting [for] instructions from his lawyers," says the one three-line note, dated 25 June, which also states that Britain's top road cyclist was released after 48 hours in French police custody on Thursday evening.

No mention, then, of Friday's reports in the French sports newspaper L'Equipe of the Scot's alleged confession that he had used two syringes worth of Eprex, the commercial form of the performance-enhancing drug EPO.

Nor is there any reference to the police raid on the 27-year-old's Continental home in Biarritz, where the empty syringes were said to have been found.

In fact, up until Thursday's bleak communiqué, the website was very much an extension of Millar's articulate and outgoing character. Entitled "It's Millar Time", the catch-phrase borrowed from an advert when he burst on to the scene with a superb win in the opening time-trial stage of the 2000 Tour de France, it does not just feature the usual bland diet of racing pictures.

Instead, and just a couple of centimetres away from Thursday's statement, the site also shows shots of the grinning Scot drinking a cup of tea, of all things, and wearing a T-shirt bearing the irreverent logo "Pimp Daddy".

This offbeat, independent-minded attitude to his sport, and to life,led him once to abandon the Tour of Spain in protest at dangerous race conditions. He also warned the Tour's organisers that "if they really want to fight against doping, they'll stop having stages 220 kilometres long." But well before Tuesday, allegations that Millar could form part of the five-month doping inquiry into his team, Cofidis, had been made by a former team-mate, Phillipe Gaumont. Eight individuals are already under formal investigation for infringingFrench drugs laws.

Yet following the end of Cofidis's month-long period of suspension from racing, and after illness caused by an allergy to a skin cream, Millar appeared to have put the allegations behind him and be back on track for an ambitious hat-trick of objectives: stage wins in the Tour, a gold medal in the time trial in Athens and a repeat of his 2003 World Championships time-trial win.

Instead, it all went pearshaped: on Tuesday night, having been pulled in at a Biarritz restaurant, Millar found himself answering the French police's questions.

Earlier the same day, he had pulled out on the last stage of the Route du Sud stage-race. "I only quit because I was tired," he told The Independent over the phone while driving back to Biarritz, "but I'm still on for July." He now appears unlikely to be taking part at all: the Tour de France issued a grimly worded statement on Friday, saying they would not let any rider implicated in a doping scandal start the event.

There was no specific mention of Millar or his team-mate Cedric Vasseur, currently under investigation for trafficking but still racing, but reading between the lines was hardly a difficult process.

Cofidis are similarly determined to head off any signs of doping. A statement on Friday says Millar has been summoned "to explain his declarations", and that they will apply their "zero-tolerance policy on doping if necessary". Nor is Millar out of the legal woods. He is due for a meeting on 1 July with the judge responsible for the Cofidis investigation, Richard Pallain.

In the very worst case, Millar would not only be teamless and Tour-less. If confirmed, his declarations would be equi-valent to a positive dope test, his first, with a potential two-year ban and no chance of riding at the Olympics.

Small wonder that since Thursday he has remained closeted with lawyers, making no public comments. At least until he breaks that silence, Dave Brailsford, the director of Britain's World Class Performance Plan, who oversee Millar's Olympic bid, told The Independent: "For now, Dave continues to form part of the Athens squad. We are acting on the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise." Brailsford also said he has been in very recent contact with Millar, but refused to discuss any conversations.

He did add that he understood the Tour's actions in that "the sport needs to look after its image". but British Cycling's even-handed stance is a timely reminder that Millar could yet be given the all-clear by French police and find himself with battered credibility but still with a chance of riding the Tour.

However, until the rider himself goes beyond Thursday's three-line website statement, speculation that Britain's leading cyclist is facing his grimmest-ever summer will continue to mount.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for 'Cycling Weekly'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?