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Millar: 'Riccò was too good to be true'

Riccò - too good to be true?

Riccò - too good to be true? (Image credit: AFP)

By Gregor Brown in Narbonne

David Millar has said his former team-mate Riccardo Riccò was "too good to be true" following the surprise announcement Thursday morning that Riccò had been kicked out of the Tour de France for failing a drugs test for Erythropoietin (EPO).

"It is bullshit... I think it's unfortunate that when things look too good to be true, generally they are too good to be true - and he did look pretty f***ing good," Millar told Cyclingnews. "It is just amazing that he is that irresponsible and doesn't have any love or care for the sport."

Millar himself returned to racing after serving a ban for EPO use, but since his return in 2006 the Scot has been an outspoken advocate for clean cycling. He raced for two years in the same team as Riccò, Saunier Duval, before switching to Garmin-Chipotle at the beginning of 2008.

"Maybe there is someone behind Riccò who has told him he won't go positive," added Millar. "We need to find out who is behind this, where is he getting his stuff from and who the f*** has told him he can get through controls. It is just bullshit."

At last year's Tour, the news of Alexandre Vinokourov's dismissal affected Millar in a similar way. He believes the sport will change, but it will take time.

"It is not going to happen overnight, this is going to take years. There will be a positive next year - no doubt - and the year after. The bottom line is that teams like ours are changing it. One day there will be 20 teams here with the attitude we have. At the moment, we only have three teams that are really like us - Columbia and CSC - that is not enough, every other team needs to be doing what we are doing."

Millar's Garmin-Chipotle team, Columbia and CSC-Saxo Bank use independent internal testing programmes that are designed to closely monitor the health of their riders and detect any abnormal or suspicious activity.

Prior to Riccò, this year's Tour has seen tests failed by Liquigas' Manuel Beltrán and Barloworld's Moisés Dueñas, all for the same form of EPO. Beltrán, at 37 years old, was considered one of cycling's 'old guard' and the hope was that cycling was moving in a new direction. However, the failed test of 24 year-old Riccò, who shot to fame in 2006 after defeating Paolo Bettini in a stage of the Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale Coppi-Bartali, appears to shoot holes in this theory.

"They have this culture embedded in them and they honestly believe it is not possible to do these things without [doping] and it is sad," Millar continued. "They are in teams or have been with people from a young age that have told them that the only possible way to do it is to dope - that is just not true.

"You see that Christian [Vande Velde] is third overall and he is doing it without injection, without anything. He is as clean as can be and he is third overall. If you can't do it like Christian then you are not good enough and you don't need dope, and it is as simple as that.

"There is no model, it is difficult to accuse someone due to their up bringing, it is also the circumstances and the people around them. I think Beltrán and Riccò, maybe they have just surrounded themselves with the same people - the ones that are convinced you can't do it without taking drugs."

However, Millar believes that Mauro Gianetti, Saunier Duval's team manager, has good intentions and Riccò was more likely misled by others.

"I think that Mauro Gianetti has been taken advantage of and he is someone I have a lot of respect for," said Millar. "He does not deserve this and he has a good heart. He has perhaps put a lot of trust in people that he shouldn't have and he will learn from this.

"I guarantee - you watch Mauro - he will have an independent anti-doping programme within the team by the end of the year. He was close to doing it last year, and now he is going to have to extend his budget and get that programme in place. It is by doing that the sport will change."

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