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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Cycling News Extra for July 20, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Cofidis drops Millar

The Cofidis team confirmed this week that David Millar will be fired, the result of his admission to the use of EPO. Millar was swept up in the doping investigation surrounding the team, implicated by his former teammate Philippe Gaumont, who earlier in the year admitted to his own use of banned substances and was subsequently dropped from the team. Millar confessed to French judge Richard Pallain his use of EPO in 2001 and in 2003.

"The letter of termination was sent yesterday," a Cofidis spokesperson commented Tuesday, indicating that the team had taken formal action against the Scot.

As the UCI considers an admission to doping on par with a positive test, Millar will almost certainly be stripped of his world time trial championship from the Hamilton, Canada world's last October. The rainbow jersey would, in that case, be passed to Australian Michael Rogers, who finished second behind Millar in the time trial.

"I dreamed of being world champion, and I succeeded, but I cheated," Millar commented in a l'Equipe interview published Tuesday.

Fall from grace

Millar explained his own turn toward doping, revealing a fragile mental state throughout the early years of his professional career. Blessed with natural talent but seemingly unable to support the physical and emotional demands of the heavy racing calendar proposed by his team, Millar found himself passing between periods of great success and profound disinterest or lack of motivation in his personal and professional spheres.

"It was during [the 2001] Tour de France, when I wasn't going well, that I found myself in the room one night with Massimiliano Lelli, who told me he was going to help me prepare for the Tour of Spain. He saw that I wasn't happy in the team or myself. I knew what he meant. He said we'd do a training camp in Italy, and I knew what he was talking about."

What Lelli was talking about was, according to Millar, introducing him to the use of EPO. Following the trip to Italy, Millar said he relied on Lelli to procure the EPO in 2001. After finishing the Vuelta a España, as expected by his team, Millar came to terms with his drug use and decided to start anew in 2002. He won a stage of the Tour de France that year, which he says was while riding clean, but a difficult end of the season steered him back to EPO, this time with Euskaltel-Euskadi team doctor Jesus Losa. Millar began to work with Losa in 2002, though it was not until the end of that year that he asked the doctor to give him EPO.

"I put my career and my life in his hands and I gave him 12,000 euros a year," Millar explained. "The objectives following the use of the EPO were the Dauphiné Libéré and the time trial world championships in Canada.

"At that time, I had taken the EPO while I was in Manchester," he continued. "The two syringes which were found in my house were from Manchester. I brought them back to my house as a motivation, so I would never forget that I had become world champion in Hamilton while doping."

Whether or not Millar has said all there is to say on the subject of his own doping remains to be seen, but following a court confrontation between he and Philippe Gaumont on Tuesday, Millar's attorney insists that his client's version of the events that transpired is accurate.

"My client was heard for two hours this morning by the judge," said Millar's lawyer Paul-Albert Iweins. "After that he was confronted by Mr. Gaumont. Each rested on his original position. David Millar admits to what he did but he does not accept the accusations made by Gaumont."

Iweins also asserted that contradictions exist between the testimony of Gaumont and Millar, whereas between Millar and Cédric Vasseur, also implicated in the Cofidis affair, the stories are consistent.

"I wasn't proud to be doping, and I wasn't happy," Millar concluded. "I was a prisoner to the person I had become."

Belgian federation recommends four years for Bruylandts

The Belgian cycling federation has recommended a harsh suspension of four years and a fine of €6000 for Dave Bruylandts (Chocolade Jacques), who was positive for EPO at an out of competition test in April this year. Bruylandts, together with his girlfriend Femke Melis and his lawyer, faced the Belgian federation on Tuesday after the news became public yesterday.

The Belgian federation did not believe Bruylandts' explanation that the EPO came from a contaminated food supplement, and declared that it was deliberate doping on his part and recommended a four year suspension. His lawyer argued that there were extenuating circumstances, and that Bruylandts would not be so stupid to take EPO with all the controls that the riders undergo. The federation clearly did not believe that this was a particularly strong defense.

"A suspension of four years will be problematical," Bruylandts was quoted by Sporza as saying. "But there is still no decision. I will defend myself and hope for the best. I can not even speak of a job yet. We'll see where we finish up."

Jacques team director Johan Capiot commented from Spain, where he is holidaying now, that "Four years is a particularly harsh sentence. Really I want to put my trust in the men of the KBWB. They are smart enough. I will keep supporting Dave. For my part he can keep riding until there is a definite decision."

Saeco snubbed for Olympics

The Italian Saeco team has been forced to accept the fact that two of its top riders will not be heading to Athens in August for the Olympic Games. National selector Franco Ballerini has opted not to pick Danilo Di Luca and Damiano Cunego, to the shock of Saeco manager Claudio Corti. With a formal selection imminent, Michele Bartoli (CSC), Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon), and Filippo Pozzato (Fassa Bortolo) appear certain. Saeco's Mirko Celestino is a candidate for one of the two remaining places, along with Alessandro Petacchi, Daniele Nardello, Luca Paolini, and Cristian Moreni.

"I think [Ballerini] is thinking about the ongoing investigations (of which Di Luca is a part), like the organisers of the Tour de France, but he shouldn't forget that he too was once named in an investigation before eventually being cleared," Corti said.

"As for Cunego, I really don't understand. Does Ballerini at least know that Cunego won the Giro?"

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