Saunier-Duval’s David Millar tonight left his rest-day press conference in tears after learning that Alexandre Vinokourov had tested positive for a blood transfusion. Click here for the Bikeradar interview with Millar in Pau.
Millar’s initial reaction on hearing the news was “Jesus Christ!” He then paused for a second, open-mouthed, before going on to express his horror at the latest scandal in what is fast becoming another “Tour de Farce”.
“Well, that’s perfect timing, isn’t it?” Millar said. “I wanted to believe it. Vino is one of my favourite riders. He is one of the most beautiful riders. If a guy of his stature and class does that in cycling’s current situation, well, we might as well as go home. I feel like the riders will never understand.
“I’m just going to carry on being faithful to my philosophy, to my principles. I do the Tour without any injections,” he continued. “I want people to believe in riders and believe in the Tour and I really want to win a stage before the end of the race to prove that it can be done.”
Millar’s words were greeted with applause in the Pau press centre.
The Scot went on to vent his frustration with a sport and a race which can apparently never learn their lesson.
No-one’s trying hard enough,” he said. “I preach, I do take it all very personally and I’ve made my mistakes, but we had young riders believing that it was getting better; now maybe there going to think they have to dope if they want to succeed. I feel so sorry for young riders like Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas.”
“I try my best not to critique the UCI but now I’ll say that they have to get their controlling system sorted out. That’s their only responsibility – controlling the riders. They have to get their system sorted out…I think they’re doing their best but it has to happen on a deeper level. In a way it’s a good thing [that Vinokourov has been caught]. Maybe now, one guy who took a transfusion today won’t start tomorrow. It’s good because a lot of people thought that they could get away with it.”
Millar said this evening that a “generation shift” needs to take place in cycling. With one proviso: “You can’t throw out all the old garbage. You’ve got to keep the intelligent guys. We need to keep the old poachers to make them gamekeepers… The 40th anniversary of Tom Simpson’s death was ten days ago, but we’re still here. There wasn’t even a minute’s silence to remember him and remember that he died of doping.”
Sunday Times journalist Paul Kimmage was among the reporters thronged around Millar as he spoke. Kimmage condemned Vinokourov for his collaboration with Italian doctor Michele Ferrari on the eve of the Tour, and Kimmage has also been among Millar’s most ardent detractors. The journalist asked Millar if cycling’s tolerance of Ferrari and his work with pro riders should now end.
“I think you’re right,” Millar told Kimmage. “I think it’s time for that. I was giving him the benefit of doubt before. I think that Ferrari is one of the best coaches, and I thought that maybe he’d seen the light.”
Tonight, many hope that Ferrari and his legacy are on their way out of the sport. Millar left the Palais Beaumont tonight with tears in his eyes.