PAU, France (VN) — Garmin-Sharp sponsors will continue their support of the team, says David Millar, even if its riders and manager may be involved in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation into doping at the U.S. Postal Service.
“We have incredible sponsors and they believe in us,” he explained Tuesday in a press conference. “They understood what we’re about since day one. With Garmin, now Sharp, we are very lucky. [The sponsors] understand the sport and what it’s about. They understand the past and what’s happened, and what we’ve done to change it.”
The team’s CEO, Jonathan Vaughters and two of its riders, David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde, have reportedly given testimony in the USADA investigation about their and Lance Armstrong’s doping practices.
USADA last week issued a 30-day extension for Armstrong to decide if he wants to accept penalties or face an arbitration panel. His former team manager, Johan Bruyneel asked to be heard by an arbitration panel. They both face possible lifetime bans for violations that range from possession, trafficking and administering banned drugs to conspiracy.
Garmin’s Vaughters, Zabriskie and Vande Velde raced with Armstrong’s team around the turn of the century, Vaughters from 1998 to 1999. Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf, for whom Bruyneel writes a column, reported on July 5 that it had a source who said USADA would issue the trio a six-month ban later this year.
The three Garmin men have not confirmed their testimony, but Vaughters has denied the reported bans.
“It’s just an on-going story. We need closure in some way,” Millar said. “I don’t know. I’m just going to wait and see what happens. Let’s just wait and see.”
Millar served a ban for EPO use, returned to cycling in 2006 and became cycling’s anti-doping spokesman. He joined Slipstream, Vaughters’ management firm behind the team, with Zabriskie and Vande Velde in 2008 to help the team grow into the European ranks and promote clean cycling. He is now part owner.
“I’m not worried about the team in the slightest. I mean, I’m worried how it affects individuals, it’s not pleasant going through any of that,” Millar added. “I think it’s very sad because I think what we’re doing in the sport has been amazing, and all these people within our team, we’ve been the ones, more than anyone, who’ve changed the sport. It’s just the way the sport is, unfortunately.”
Later this month, Millar takes another step ahead. He will help Great Britain try to win the Olympic road race with Mark Cavendish. It’s his first time back to the Olympics since Sydney in 2000. He only became eligible for selection after the World Anti-Doping Agency challenged a British Olympic Association bylaw preventing athletes who have served a ban from competing in the Games.
“It’s going to be an amazing experience, but a massive job,” said Millar. “It’s more nerve-wracking then anything.”
Millar plans to race for another three to four more years. He added, “I don’t think I’ll be racing at 40, that’s for sure!” Afterwards, he said he would find another role, but remain at Garmin, which he expects to continue churning along, now as a grand tour winner.