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Opinion: It never ends how it starts

  • By Anthony Tan
  • Published Jan. 6, 2012
  • Updated Jan. 6, 2012 at 6:30 PM EDT
The UCI will implement an anti-doping hotline for riders in 2013 and expects the independent review panel to clear it of wrongdoing in the Armstrong Affair. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Less controversial, perhaps, but of equal interest, were the polarized opinions of Team Sky buddies Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins, concerning David Millar’s inclusion at the London Olympic Games. The British Olympic Association (BOA) currently has a lifetime ban on drug cheats, something the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) does not agree with and wants changed.

Speaking to the BBC on separate occasions though within a week of each other, Cavendish opened by saying, “He’s redeemed himself. I would love him to be at London 2012. Dave cheated but he has realized what he did and learned a lot. He’s a massive anti-doping campaigner.”

“If we want to win the Olympic road race, we need Dave,” said the Manxman. “If you want to win and make history, you need a group of people around you. There are certain people I would want to share that with and Dave’s one of them.”

Wiggins, on the other hand, thought differently. He said, “To have Dave in the team purely from a performance point of view, it would be fantastic for Mark (Cavendish in terms of) trying to win the Olympic road race.

“But from a moral point of view,” he said, “from what cycling is trying to achieve, from what cycling’s been through the last few years, for what the Olympics stand for, he should never be able to do the Olympics again.”

Personally, I think it’s healthy for athletes — even those on the same team — to have (and voice) differing opinions, particularly on issues as vexed as doping and repentance by those who have doped.

In Millar’s autobiography, ‘Racing Through the Dark,’ the Scotsman makes it quite clear he was disappointed in the way Wiggins left what was then Garmin-Slipstream in 2009 and what he subsequently said about his former team. “You need to be at Manchester United and I’m playing for Wigan,” Wiggins said, shortly before it was announced he had indeed joined Team Sky.

Millar, a part-owner of the team, also said after they turned themselves inside out for Wiggins at the ‘09 Tour de France, there was no reciprocity when it came to providing a lead-out for Tyler Farrar on the final stage to Paris. “It was the one day that Brad was asked to give something back to the team, after we’d given him everything for three weeks,” he said. “Yet I felt he hadn’t even tried.”

He also said about Wiggins, “Brad looks after number one and that’s one of the traits that makes him so successful. But I think he sometimes takes advantage of the admiring and respectful reaction to him.”

This may have something to do with it, although Wiggins has long been staunchly anti-doping. He is often sought out by journalists at the Tour because of his views and his ability to articulate his perspective both in English and French.

Regardless, I don’t see any rift developing between Cavendish and Wiggins because of their opinion on Millar’s moral eligibility for the Games. Tension will arise only if either doesn’t feel adequately supported — and we won’t know about that till July, because in all likelihood, the pair won’t race together until then.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) recently ruled against an International Olympic Committee (IOC) edict that outlawed ex-dopers from competing at the next Olympic Games, specifically in relation to US track and field athlete LaShawn Merritt, the reigning men’s 400-meter Olympic champion. It prompted WADA to ask the BOA to drop their lifetime ban ruling, which they refused to do.

WADA has now called on CAS to intervene, so, based on precedent, Cav may well get his wish — along with an Olympic gold medal.

Realizing life in advertising was nothing like Mad Men and buoyed by the Olympic Games in his Australian hometown of Sydney, Anthony Tan turned his back on a lucrative copywriting career in 2000 in pursuit of something more cerebral. Combining wordsmithing with his experiences as an A-Grade club racer and an underwhelming season competing in Europe, a career as a cycling scribe beckoned… More than a dozen Grand Tours and countless Classics later, it’s where he still is today. He has been a contributor to VeloNews since 2006. In 2010, he won Cycling Australia’s media award for best story. Follow him on Twitter: @anthony_tan

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