Millar's Tour de France plans hinge on appeal
DAVID Millar, the cyclist who confessed to doping last summer, will appear at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne on Monday to appeal against the punishment imposed by British Cycling.
Millar admitted to French police on 24 June that he had used EPO on three separate occasions, and he was immediately suspended from racing, pending a disciplinary hearing. This was not held, however, until 6 August, when the sanction imposed was a two-year ban from the date of the hearing and a fine of 2,000 Swiss Francs.
After considering his options and letting the dust settle on the most high-profile doping case ever to have befallen British Cycling, the 28-year old decided to appeal to the CAS against the length of the ban and its start date, which he will argue on Monday should be 24 June rather than 6 August.
It is not a petty point: the significance of this six-week period is that it includes the Tour de France. And Millar, though he hasn't confirmed that he intends to return to racing, clearly wishes to leave the door open to ride the Tour in 2006.
Millar has been keeping a low profile since news of his appeal emerged in September. Though plans to go to university in Manchester were abandoned, he has moved back to the UK from Biarritz, and is currently living in London. He was a spectator at the recent World Cup track meeting in Manchester, and is said to be keeping fit - he even contested a 10km run in London in late November. But he has refused to discuss his appeal, and has similarly elected to draw a veil of silence over his plans for the future - perhaps until he knows when he would be permitted to race again.
Millar will not be the only Scot at the centre of events in Lausanne on Monday, however. Jim Hendry, who acted as secretary to the original hearing, will be British Cycling’s representative in Lausanne, alongside the governing body’s appointed solicitor and QC.
Since the details of the appeal became public, considerable anger and bitterness has been vented over the cost to the national body and its members of defending the original decision - Hendry confirms that this will be up to 16,000 - but it is wrong, says Hendry, to hold Millar to account for this.
"If you’re a governing body of a sport that's your responsibility," said Hendry yesterday. "You can’t abdicate that responsibility. David’s been a member of British Cycling for quite a while and we’ve had other doping cases prior to his - he’s paid his dues towards them.
"The thing with David is that he’s not saying he didn't do it. What he’s appealing against is the period of the sentence, and the start and finish. The only way the CAS will order David to pay our legal fees is if they feel it’s an absolutely frivolous appeal, which I doubt they will."
In his 25 years at the national federation, Hendry, who is originally from Perth, has, at various times, acted as national coach, chief executive and secretary. Since retiring in October he has acted on a part time basis as British Cycling’s anti-doping consultant. Monday, however, will be his first visit to the CAS.
"I’m confident that the BC ruling was just and fair," he says. "The rules David was done under said that said the suspension should start on the day of the hearing. That rule changed seven days after our hearing [WADA’s new rule states that bans will start on the day of the confession]. David’s asking us to apply the new rule, but he was dealt with under the rules as they were at the time, and this wasn’t an issue then.
"It’s his choice. It’s a normal principle of justice that you have the right to appeal, and we’re certainly not saying he shouldn’t be appealing. But obviously we think we dealt with him very, very fairly. It could have been a very much more serious ban and fine.
"If the three independent arbitrators appointed by the CAS take a different view then we will accept it and that will be the end of it.
"It hurts to have any British cyclist involved in this, and the more it drags on, the more it taints the sport. Whatever happens, I’ll be glad to see the end of it."
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