David Millar says he is ready to give it everything in a bid to help Mark Cavendish win Olympic gold after being selected for the road race team for London Wednesday. Millar, racing at the Tour de France with Garmin, served a two-year ban from 2004 to 2006 for taking the blood-boosting agent EPO (erythropoietin). However since then the Scot has turned his back on drugs and become a symbol of the sport’s apparently successful fight to race clean. Millar’s last selection for the Games was in 2000 and since the Sydney Games he believed his Olympic career to be over. But after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) successfully appealed a British Olympic Association (BOA) ruling banning former drugs cheats from selection, he became available.
After much soul-searching, Millar a crucial part of the nine-man team that helped Cavendish to road race gold at the world championships in Copenhagen last year put his name forward and was named in the five man team. He will be joined by Cavendish, Chris Froome, Ian Stannard and three-time Olympian Bradley Wiggins, one of the big favourites for the yellow jersey here at the Tour de France.
“It’s exciting, I can start arranging my post Tour de France now,” Millar said prior to the fourth stage from Abbeville to Rouen. “I’ve already missed two (Olympics) the first one I was in a drunken haze and as far away from the world of sport as is humanly possible, but in Beijing it was pretty hard to avoid how hard it was not being there. So I’ve made the right decision to put myself up and I’m very proud that the team has seen fit that I won’t be a hindrance. I want to help Mark win the gold medal.”
Held on July 28, the road race is on a 250km circuit that starts and finishes in central London but takes in Box Hill in Surrey nine times. Froome and Wiggins have also been selected to ride the time trial on August 1, meaning there is no place for Millar in the race against the clock. Millar believes that their five-man, compared to the nine-man team formula at the world championships, will face a far more tactical and physical challenge.
“It is very nerve-wracking because it’s not like Copenhagen where we were a team of nine on a flat course and we could rely on Cav’s undoubted genius to pull through in the finale,” he said. “This one’s going to be tactical and incredibly physical. It’s going to be the hardest thing we will ever do as a team, that’s for sure.”
Millar’s manager at Garmin, Jonathan Vaughters, was delighted with the news and told AFP the Scot had been underplaying his reaction.
“It’s great, I’m ecstatic for David,” said Vaughters. “I think he’s being very low key about it but I know he’s incredibly grateful to be given the opportunity.”
Vaughters said it was time to forgive and forget.
“If we’re going to accept we’re all humans and that we aren’t innately perfect you also have to accept that everyone deserves a second chance. The fundamental value is that everyone deserves a second chance.”
Millar admitted he had thought long and hard before putting himself up for selection.
“There was a risk that I would become a negative story in the build-up to the Games… suddenly it would be all about Millar the drugs cheat and not about Mark’s gold medal chances. I’d like to think the tide has turned slightly and people are starting to understand more of my full story and my reasons for going and that will calm that negative turmoil beforehand. I don’t really expect anything really. My biggest concern is doing my job on the day and not letting Mark or the team down.”