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Commentary: Building a cycling union, straight from Miller’s mouth

  • By Mark Johnson
  • Published Aug. 31, 2012
  • Updated Dec. 25, 2012 at 4:53 PM EDT
Marvin Miller was largely responsible for building the baseball players' union and his efforts provide guidelines for cycling's professionals. AP Photo

On sports doping

When it comes to how baseball has managed doping, Miller is unrepentant because he is skeptical about the efficacy of doping. Today he would still reject the commissioner of baseball’s 1985 proposed that the players submit to random drug testing.

According to Miller, that’s mainly because he doesn’t “pretend to know whether steroids for example are a magic potion that increases your ability to engage in professional sports.” And, he argues, “nobody knows, and I don’t believe you can proceed with an intelligent policy without the scientific facts that make you know. So I wouldn’t change anything that was done back then.”

With police sirens ringing outside Miller’s New York apartment, I ask Miller if he has followed the Lance Armstrong cases. “Yes,” he says, ”from a distance.”

Miller’s thoughts reveal how his decades of labor experience — sometimes wrestling with the highest levels of executive, judicial, and legislative power — have made him deeply skeptical about politicians that try to force labor unions to implement drug laws the government can’t enforce itself.

With Armstrong, Miller opines, “What you are seeing is policy being run not on the basis of fact, not on the basis of scientific knowledge, but on the basis of self interest of people who have made a career of so-called anti-doping and the people who have invested in laboratories of their own to make a profit out of this whole thing.

“It’s really absurd to give it the kind of standing and credibility that a large part of the media has done. That’s a damaging thing that the media has done.”

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Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Writer-photographer Mark Johnson's work has been published in titles including VeloNews in the United States, Cycling Weekly in the UK, Vélo in France, and Ride Cycling Review in Australia as well as general-interest publications including The Wall Street Journal and the San Diego Union-Tribune. His book on the Garmin pro team, Argyle Armada, was published by VeloPress in 2012. A Cat. 2 road cyclist, Mark has bicycled across the United States twice and completed an Ironman triathlon. He graduated from UC San Diego and has a Ph.D. in English literature from Boston University. His other passion is surfing, which he does frequently from his home in Del Mar, California. Follow him on Twitter @ironstringmark.

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