Cycling: Millar loses world title as two-year ban shatters career

"When I'm out training and someone shouts 'dope!' I feel like I want to stop and swing for them. It upsets me to think that people assume every pro is on drugs. Just because people can't comprehend the level of fitness and ability that some riders have, they now assume they all do it on drugs."

"When I'm out training and someone shouts 'dope!' I feel like I want to stop and swing for them. It upsets me to think that people assume every pro is on drugs. Just because people can't comprehend the level of fitness and ability that some riders have, they now assume they all do it on drugs."

That was the 21-year-old David Millar. Yesterday, at 27, the Scot received a two-year ban from cycling after admitting to doping offences. He was also stripped of his 2003 world time-trial title and fined around £900 for taking the banned drug erythropoietin (EPO).

An independent disciplinary panel sitting for British Cycling considered information from a number of sources and also questioned Millar before finding him guilty of intentional doping.

The panel was allowed to consider factors surrounding the offences before deciding on the punishment and also disqualified him from the 2003 Dauphiné Libéré Stage race and the 2001 Tour of Spain - where he claims he was introduced to the drug by a team-mate.

The disgraced cyclist has no right of appeal to British Cycling, but may appeal independently to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The former Cofidis rider was detained by French police in June and admitted taking EPO. Following this admission his home in Biarritz was searched and two empty syringes containing the banned substance were found. He later confessed to using EPO on three separate occasions, once in 2001 and twice in 2003.

Millar's colourful career has suffered more than a setback with yesterday's punishment.

The self-confessed dandy with his own website - listing his favourite fashion designers (Hedi Slimane and Tom Ford) and his favourite artist (Jackson Pollock) - and the man who lambasted the Tour de France organisers in his debut year and walked off the Vuelta a España in protest at dangerous conditions is suddenly short of options.

Already dropped by Cofidis for the Tour de France, Millar will miss the Olympics, denying him the chance to add the Olympic time-trial title to the rainbow jersey he won in the same event at the world championships last year.

The news will be hard on British cycling enthusiasts. With local heroes few and far between, he was their Tim Henman, only more successful.

Born in Malta and raised in Hong Kong but resolutely a Briton, he burst on to the international scene four years ago when he won the Tour de France prologue, beating the defending champion Lance Armstrong into second place and earning the right to wear the yellow jersey for three days.

At 6ft 3in, he is tall in a sport populated by small men with enormous calves but he won two stages in the Vuelta a España and silver in the world championships the following year.

Another stage win in the Tour came in 2002. Last year he fulfilled a lifetime's ambition by earning the rainbow jersey of a world champion in Canada and secured a third Tour stage victory.

Many, including Armstrong, believed he had the talent to achieve even more and Millar himself admitted he could not follow the Texan in turning his whole life over to his sport. However, he had targeted an Olympic gold as a way of raising his profile among a wider British public that had so far been only mildly impressed with his achievements.

Millar said when admitting turning to drugs: "I had always dreamt of becoming a world champion. I had reached that aim but I had cheated."

Whether he will be able to hit such heights again when the ban has been served remains to be seen.

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