Top positive review
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Eloquent and intelligent sportsman with something to say
on 10 April 2012
We heard David Millar speak at the Hay Festival about the drug culture in professional cycling, his own descent into use of performance enhancing drugs and his subsequent championing of the battle against drug use as he reentered top class racing. He was eloquent then. His book, in collaboration with Jeremy Whittle, is compelling. It is not very often that you hear and read an eloquent and intelligent sportsman on a subject of general interest, rather than their own glory.
David's claim that he resisted the ubiquitous drug culture of the professional cycling world when he joined the French teams in the 1990's is convincing. He describes the highs of a very talented non French biker and the dynamics and friendships and rivalries within the Confidis racing team. In 1999 he was in the maillot jaune for three days in the Tour and was joshing with Lance Armstrong, a sound guy for whom he clearly had immense respect, but not Marco Pantani who was cold. The inside view of the great riders of the last 10 years is fascinating.
On gaining his fame he certainly lived the high life in Biarritz. In 2001 David was leader of the Confidis team. Was it a combination of the high life, the incredible demands on a professional cyclist and the break up with his girlfriend which undermined his declared "clean" status? Was it the blowing up on the Dauphine Libere prelude to the Tour that year, or the complete disaster experienced by the Confidis team's performance in the tour and Millar's withdrawal from the race? The pressure was on him from his team and his colleagues to "prepare properly"?. There may be an element of self justification in his description of how legally taking vitamins intravenously on a daily basis made the use of EPO seem normal, but the picture he paints of the ubiquitous use of drugs amongst the professionals is convincing.
In 2003 Millar joined the British team in Manchester for the World Championships. His comparison of the professionalism and management skill of the UK team and David Brailsford with the French teams, even in those days, is inspiring. Their British team's organisation and expertise made Confidis look like a small cycling club. David Brailsford and the British contingent convinced him that doping was not necessary, but too late. The entire Confidis team was implicated and Millar was caught and confessed.
David Brailsford's soundness is underlined by his risking his entire reputation and career by taking a personal stand on Millar's behalf - organising and paying out of his own packet for psychiatric help as Millar's world imploded..
He describes hitting the rocks in vivid detail. And then his gradual climb back to top level cycling with Saunier Duval, a small, very supportive and friendly Spanish team and then back to top level performance with Garmin - unfortunately never with Sky who have a policy of proven clean riders only.
Millar became the reformed alcoholic - an eloquent and forceful member of WADA - the world drugs authority.
A fascinating read.