One story that dominated cycling timelines last week was the appointment by British Cycling of David Millar as mentor for young riders. Millar has always been a divisive character in cycling, so the sparks flew.
Three tales to tell
First of all, I don’t think the problem was that people believed that David Millar should not be allowed to earn a living. It was in the context of his appointment and if, in fact, he is the best person to be mentoring young riders in how to withstand the pressure to dope. Some said he was, some said he wasn’t.
First of all, let’s be clear as to what David Millar’s story is not. It’s not a cautionary tale: “I doped and I lost everything. I never got another contract after my ban and now I run a newsagents. I never got a book deal.” Or, like Marco Pantani and Frank Vandenbroucke, it’s not a story of being caught in a downward spiral to an early grave. It’s not about losing everything – and never getting it back.
It’s also not a courage of your convictions story: “I never succumbed to the pressure of doping, although it was difficult at times. It would have been easy to just go along with it but I didn’t want to be that rider. Every day I had to find another way to win” or “I only had two years in cycling – maybe I would have had more if I had doped but, for me, that’s not how I wanted my life to go. I believed my integrity was more important.”
No, David Millar’s story is his version of a redemption story: “I made a mistake, but in the end, I came out of it and, in fact, am going from strength to strength.” None of these three types of stories is any more or less valuable than the others – they are stories about the human condition and everyone has variations of them in their life. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone pays consequences and everyone has to use their moral compass every single day. Again, it’s the context that is important.
There were tweets, defending BC’s choice, asking “What do you think he’s going to do? Tell them how to do it?” (Unfortunately I didn’t favourite those tweets so couldn’t find them again … rookie error) It’s not that people think he’ll tell the riders how to do it (I don’t think anyone believes he would do that) – it’s that he can’t tell them how not to ever do it.
The story he has to tell can only ever be “I succumbed to the pressure, to the desire to win, to the fear of failing, to the humiliation of being dropped from the team and I doped in order to continue my cycling career. I got banned, vilified and thrown aside for two years but I came back and was able to resume my career.”
Can David Millar actually give these young riders advice on how to stay strong against the temptation of doping – a temptation they will undoubtedly feel – even though he himself failed when he was as young, lonely and impressionable as these guys. It’s do as I say, not as I did.
Stefan Wyman, owner of women’s team Matrix Procycling, was adament in his opposition to the appointment, as was Jenny Copnall, XC national champion many times over.
His experience is about coming back after a potentially career-ruining decision. He’s turned his doping ban into an anti-doping stance (although I think it would carry more weight if he’d actually spoken to CIRC) and therefore doping is ultimately why he got a multi-book contract, why he got the opportunity to design (or ‘imagine’) a cycling kit collection for Castelli, why he has the opportunity to commentate on ITV’s cycling coverage, why he has his Maserati ambassadorship. Would he have had these opportunities if he hadn’t become famous for doping/anti-doping? Doubtful. Will the opposition to the appointment make him or British Cycling think again? I can’t imagine it will.
Let’s go on to some of the other tweets from last week.
I have no words …
If you remember, Kris Boeckmans had that terrible crash in the Vuelta, after which he was put in a medically induced coma and was in hospital for a good long time. This is a great picture to see.
You know those people who cycle past you, even if it’s obvious you’ve got a flat and you could use a hand? Well, Mark Cavendish is not one of those people.
And neither is IAM’s Larry Warbasse.
We are loving FDJ’s picture sharing programme …
And to continue our series of FDJ’s Jean-Paul Sartre-inspired portraits: “No finite point has meaning without an infinite reference point.”
Uuuuuummmmmmmm… fashion sure can be dangerous so you’d best wear your helmet.
Our favourite werewolf, Laurens Ten Dam, had a family day out. Cute kids!
Giacomo Nizzolo is clearly not on that dangerous fashion edge that Froome is as he doesn’t feel the need for a helmet. Sunglasses might come in handy for that first jacket, though.
And speaking of fashionistas! That Boy Phinney is puttin’ on the pout … as is His Dad Phinney.
The Last Word