David Millar defended his counterintuitive inclusion in British Cycling as a mentor for young riders today, justifying the role as an anti-doping advocate in light of his own doping history by saying he has "been there and done it all" in an interview with The Guardian's William Fotheringham.
The announcement today by British Cycling sparked a mix of support and criticism. British race organiser Vin Cox resigned from the federation over the issue, and Millar's fellow admitted doper Jörg Jaksche tweeted a link to the announcement on Cyclingnews with "Ouch!" as the only comment. Matrix Pro Cycling women's team manager Stef Wyman similarly tweeted, "If this was published on 1 April, I'd understand. Why. Just Why."
British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton explained the decision, stating, "The more expertise we can bring, the better, Dave brings that in abundance. I think people will question why we've brought Dave in. We know Dave's past. I don't think there's anyone better to put the guys in the right direction on these anti-doping stance, given the way he's reformed himself. He's one of the leading lights in that particular area."
Millar defended his role to The Guardian. "I have been there and done it all recently, good and bad," Millar said, adding, "I can tell them about the risks, how [doping] can damage you. It's about qualifying them for the world they are going into. Cycling has cleaned up its act, it's possible to get to the top clean, but you can see from what's happening in athletics that there is a way to go."
Millar emerged as one of the great hopes of British Cycling in the early 2000s, after he won the prologue in his first Tour de France and held the yellow jersey for three days, but he soon succumbed to the EPO use that was rampant in the peloton at the time. He was arrested for possession of the drug in 2004, admitted to using the drug and was banned for two years. When he came back in 2006, he styled himself as a repentant doper committed to eradicating drugs from the sport, and later helped to found the Slipstream team with that ethos. He closed out his career in 2014.
The 39-year-old says his background can benefit the young riders. "I'm in a strong position to educate those guys on what happens. If one of them has doubts about someone he is riding against, sees something he doesn’t understand, he can talk to me. He will know that I will do something about it, and that I will give him an idea of how to cope with it."