Tour de France: Millar link adds to pressure on Euskaltel

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The Independent Online

In a further twist to the David Millar affair, newspaper reports say that he has accused the team doctor of a leading Tour de France contenderof supplying him with the banned drug EPO.

In a further twist to the David Millar affair, newspaper reports say that he has accused the team doctor of a leading Tour de France contenderof supplying him with the banned drug EPO.

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, Millar named the Spaniard Jesus Losa, the Euskaltel-Euskadi team doctor, during his 48-hour interrogation by French police last week as the source of the drugs he first used three years ago.

Losa, who has been widely reported as playing the role of Millar's personal trainer, has refused to travel to the start of the Tour in Liège, Belgium, for reasons that his team have failed to specify.

The news will hardly be welcome for Euskaltel-Euskadi, already in the midst of a scandal after one of their riders, the Spaniard Gorka Gonzalez, was suspended from racing on Thursday by the UCI, cycling's governing body, for health reasons. Losa is also the doctor for one of Lance Armstrong's main challengers, Iban Mayo.

After more than a week of silence, Millar finally published a statement on his website, confirming that he had been "put under investigation for the possession of an illegal substance" - the step in French law prior to charges being placed.

The statement also explained that the 27-year-old Scot had used EPO on three separate occasions, once in 2001 and twice in 2003.

According to French newspaper L'Equipe, his lawyer Paul-Albert Iweins said he took the drug "outside France."

Millar was at pains to emphasise that he had taken the performance-enhancing drug, which increases levels of red blood cell production, without the knowledge of the British Cycling Federation, which suspended Millar from racing and from its Olympics squad on Thursday night, pending a disciplinary hearing.

The BCF president, Brian Cookson, insisted on seeing the admission of drug use by Britain's most successful cyclist of recent times in the context of a professional sport "where there are elements that have not seen the writing on the wall." Cookson also pointed out that "in our Great Britain cycling team, we are totally committed to running a drug-free set-up, and I cannot emphasise strongly enough that all our riders, coaches and back-up staff sign up to that unequivocally."

Millar was equally adamant that the BCF had known nothing of his drug use, with his website saying that: "It was his recent induction into the UK-based performance programme that helped inspire him to decide never to use an illegal substance again."

However, a recent police search of Millar's French home in Biarritz apparently revealed that he had two empty syringes of EPO hidden inside a book. According to L'Equipe, Iweins said Millar had kept the syringes as a way of remembering that he should not use the drug in the future - an unusual explanation which could perhaps be explained by the Scot's vulnerable condition after he himself saw "the writing was on the wall". He still forms part of the Cofidis team, but a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday is expected to show him scant sympathy.

Cofidis have already expelled two French riders, Phillipe Gaumont and Mederic Clain, from the squad after confessions of doping and the team management admitted "there can only be one conclusion".

Not only Tour-less and presumably imminently team-less, Millar could also face up to a two-year ban from racing if the UCI decide that his confessions are equivalent to a positive dope test.

It is a grim conclusion to eight short days in which he has gone from being a major contender for today's Tour prologue and an Olympics gold medal prospect to seeing his career in ruins. Whether this latest report will also lead to problems for Euskaltel once the Tour returns to France from Belgium on Tuesday remains to be seen.

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