Cycling: Pressure to perform led me to EPO, says Millar

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The Independent Online

The British cyclist David Millar said that intense pressure to perform had led him to try the banned blood-boosting hormone EPO as he testified yesterday in a doping trial of seven current or former riders with the Cofidis team.

On the second day of the trial, in Nanterre, Paris, Millar said he felt responsible for the team's performance because he was its leader at the time.

"When I saw that when I was bad, the team was terrible, I had the responsibility to become a 'real professional'," said Millar, referring to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Millar described a trip to Italy in 2001 to stay with his team-mate Massimiliano Lelli. Millar said he learnt there how to inject EPO through his shoulder, but that the decision to start doping was difficult.

The Scottish rider was banned for two years and stripped of his 2003 world time-trial title after admitting to a French judge that he used EPO. He has admitted to using EPO three times: once in 2001 and twice in 2003 - including at the 2003 Tour de France. He returned to competition earlier this year after completing his suspension.

Millar is on trial with nine others. The seven cyclists are charged with "acquiring and possessing banned substances." The other three defendants - a cycling technician, a pharmacist and a former Cofidis trainer - are accused of supplying them with the drugs.

The trial is expected to last a week. The defendants each face up to five years in prison and fines of €75,000 (£50,000) if convicted.

The case centres on Cofidis' ex-physio, Boguslaw Madejak, a Pole who joined the team in 1997. French investigators intercepted phone calls between Madejak and two Polish Cofidis riders in which they appeared to speak in code about trafficking substances used in doping.

In January 2004, French authorities found seven vials of the performance enhancer EPO on the cyclist Marek Rutkiewicz, who was returning from a trip to Poland. Under questioning, Rutkiewicz said Madejak's father had supplied him with the drug.

"I would like to finish this whole thing and live the rest of my life calmly," Madejak said at the trial on Monday.

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