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Doping and sports

Cyclist reveals  darker side of sport

By  Chris Muldrow

The Free Lance-Star

PROFESSIONAL cycling  is a hard sport to love.

The nuance of team tactics in a road race or the complexity of the scoring and awards system on a long stage race like the Tour de France can be learned pretty quickly.

The tough part for me is not knowing if your favorite rider is going to be walked from his team bus in handcuffs for doping.

David Millar’s “Racing Through the Dark” shines some light on one rider’s decision to stop riding clean and start “preparing” for his races by using EPO. Millar rode professionally for the Cofidis cycling team before being arrested for doping in 2004.

Millar was a strong rider without the EPO, holding the yellow jersey in the 2001 Tour de France for several days. But he started doping in 2001 as the stress of losing several races and of seeing other doping riders beat him took its toll.

Millar served a two-year suspension from cycling, was fired from Cofidis and was seen as damaged goods when he went looking for a new team after the suspension. He describes a world where the stigma was not on the fact that Millar had doped—most pro teams seemed to turn a blind eye to that—but that Millar had been caught.

While many pro riders served their suspensions and quietly tried to find their way back into the sport, Millar took a different course. He became a vocal critic of what doping was doing to the sport, seeking out anti-doping organizations to give them some insight into what he had done, and, more importantly, why he felt the need to dope.

That also led him to the Slipstream cycling team that former pro rider Jonathan Vaughters was building—a team that was implementing strong internal controls to screen riders for doping and aggressively promote a clean competitive style. Vaughters, who just revealed he also doped when he rode professionally, felt that putting a confessed doper like Millar at the head of his team would cement his message of full transparency.

Some people will dismiss Millar as a cheater and cast doubt on the doping in the past of some of the Slipstream team. Without shining light on the causes of the doping plague that infected professional cycling, it’s unlikely any progress will be made. Millar makes it clear that he’s a changed man, and he’s one member of the peloton I’m pretty sure won’t be getting another visit from the French police.

Chris Muldrow is chief digital officer of The Free Lance–Star Publishing Co.

RACING THROUGH THE DARK

By David Millar

(Touchstone, $26, 351 pp.)

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/books/2012/08/20/doping-and-sports/

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