Huffpost UK Sport uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Kevin Newton Headshot

Should David Millar Compete at London 2012?

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

The first medal of the 2012 Olympics will be won on Saturday 28 July, with British cyclist Mark Cavendish the favourite to get Team GB off to a medal-winning start in the road-race.

However, the outcome of current court proceedings in Lausanne could play almost as big a part with Cavendish's hopes as the nine laps around Surrey's Box Hill and predicted sprint-finish down The Mall.

No athletes are on trial here, not World Champion Cavendish nor even the man he hopes will be his Olympic team-mate, former drug cheat and five time Tour de France stage-winner, David Millar.

Instead the players in this game are the Court or Arbitration for Sport (Cas), who will rule on a British Olympic Association (BOA) by-law which is being challenged by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA).

The BOA stance that keeps convicted drug-cheats out of Olympic competition for life goes against WADA guidelines, the standard global protocol for punishment of dopers.

Should Cas rule against the BOA, they would be forced to consider Millar, along with tainted sprinter Dwain Chambers, for selection in London 2012.

Once considered, it would be hard to argue against Millar, a world-class time-traillist and super-domestique, taking up a place in GB's 5-man team which will support Cavendish in the hope of delivering him to The Mall to sprint for gold in July.

But is the view of Cavendish and WADA, not to mention Miller himself, that he has done his time and should be allowed to compete, a little narrow-sighted?

Yes, Millar paid a hefty price for his abuse and has since returned to cycling a reformed character, and staunch anti-doping campaigner, but can the rules of Pro-Cycling be applied to the Olympic Games? I would argue emphatically not.

Back in 2003, When Millar was doping as leader of his French team, Cofidis, it is widely supposed that practically the entire peloton were at it and young pros that raced clean were seen as delusional or lacking ambition.

Frankly, the pro-cycling world barely batted an eyelid at Millar's arrest and subsequent ban - they already knew, and largely turned a blind eye to, the problems endemic within their sport.

Yet serve his ban he did, while the rest of the peloton carried on as normal, and he eventually returned to the 2007 Tour De France, tainted but once more clean, in the wake of renewed efforts by the UCI to clean up Cycling.

To apply these same rules of punishment and return to the Olympics strikes me as absurd given the differing levels of professionalism, investment, importance and history across the many Olympic events.

Should, for instance, a doped athlete who denies a fellow competitor a podium place for the 100m, rowing, table tennis or any other sport of which the Olympics are the pinnacle, be allowed to compete in future Olympic Games?

Yes there are always those who cheat, and who knows how many get away with it? But in order to keep the image of the Olympics and its, seemingly ubiquitous, 'dream' alive, there should be no place for any previous drug users, regardless of time served, subsequent reformation or WADA recommendations.

If Millar's absence is the price to pay to be able to say to British Olympians that they go to London 2012 in a clean, ethical, non-compromising Team GB, then it is one worth paying.

Millar still has the Tour de France, the pinnacle of the cycling calendar, and I'll happily cheer him on in pursuit of a sixth stage victory this summer, but lets not taint the career-defining event of our non-cycling Olympians.