"Racing through the darkness." The ups and downs of David Millar

In the framework of the Beat Film Festival, which will be held in Moscow from May 31 to June 10, the film "Time Trial" is released - about the British cyclist David Millar. We recall the career of an athlete who, after a mistake, still managed to take life into his own hands.

In the evening of June 23, 2004, David Millar dined at the restaurant with the trainer of the UK cycling team, Dave Brailsford, when three men approached him. These were plainclothes police officers working in the French drug department. The police escorted David to the house, where, having searched the apartment, they found two used syringes.

Millar was taken to prison, his phone, watch, keys and even his laces were already seized from him and the cyclist was thrown into the cell. The moment when the prison door slammed behind David became the lowest point in his career, which began so brilliantly just a few years before the incident.

Photo: cyclist.


- When I look back at the results that I had at the start of my career, I understand that they were incredible. Especially in the first "Tour". I was on the right track, but then I did not have the patience. The expectations were so high that to cope with them would be difficult in any era, could I cope then? Let's just say it was a different time.

The time really was different.

In the late 1990s, when Millar became a professional, the success of the riders consisted of a little more than just taking vitamins. At age 20, he signed his first contract with the French team Cofidis, which was known for the fact that some of its riders regularly traveled on amphetamines, and once stole a team bus to visit a local brothel. Millar did not take much time to realize the dark secret of the peloton - doping was everywhere. But the young driver was determined to fight “clean”, and at first he did it - success came, including winning the Tour de France prologue (race with a separate start) in 2000. As soon as he joined the ranks of applicants for the next victory, expectations began to crush.

Struggling with the enormous workload and watching the riders rush past him, Millar finally resigned himself to the team’s “prepare properly” recommendations.

"Expectations pressed me, and this was one of the reasons I resorted to illegal drugs," Millar says. “Since this was the era of mass doping, but I didn’t use it at first, I felt that it hindered the results. I didn’t believe that I could win, because I saw that all the people who won the Tour were sitting on some then drugs. I realized that there was only one way that would satisfy my expectations.


Two years of competition as a doping driver brought Millar success, including including winning the individual race with a separate start at the 2003 World Cycling Championships, but the constant concealment of the truth began to affect his emotional health. Experienced an ongoing sense of guilt, he increasingly relied on sleeping pills and alcohol. Sports disappointments also began, until a British team based in Manchester offered him a place and an opportunity to quit doping. But this was not destined to happen, the French police had already approached the table in the restaurant.

During the interrogation, the rider admitted to using the drug EPO (erythropoietin).

He was fined and suspended from the competition for two years. Millar also received a lifelong disqualification from the British Olympic Association and was stripped of his world title. For the next two years, he tried to find solace at the bottom of the bottle. But when the ban on competing was finally lifted in 2006, Millar decided it was time for atonement.

- I was given this second chance, and I felt that I had to pay for what happened.

I was not going to hide from the past and realized that I would have to speak publicly about this. I did not want to let any young rider go through my mistakes. When the “Operation Puerto” (an investigation by the Spanish police regarding the doping system in cycling. - Ed.) Happened, I became a favorite for all journalists because I was the only one who was ready to speak on this subject.

Photo: cyclist. co

Millar became the most popular driver who admitted to doping and spoke openly about the doping culture in sports, although he refused to surrender any of his colleagues - a prudent step , which provided him with popularity inside the peloton. No longer considered a potential winner of the Tour, but being “clean” and free from the burden of guilt, Millar felt calm and honest with himself.

"I enjoyed the second part of my career much more than the first. Especially on Sli96stream (Millar joined the Garmin-sponsored team in 2007, now it is Cannondale Pro Cycling). I loved this team "admits Millar." I again found that real passion for cycling, and I didn’t have any kind of meeting. I could do what I wanted, and not what others expected from me.

It was a release. "

It was at that time that Millar helped promote reform in the field of cycling and wrote one of the greatest biographies of “Racing Through the Darkness” - a story about his early career and doping. He also became known as one of the most respected captains in the professional peloton, he was an athlete whose job it was to build a team during the race.

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Photo: cyclist. co

Throughout his career, pain has been a familiar feeling for Millard. But in 2010, one of the days of the Tour de France, she made him suffer more than ever. Damage to ribs after accidents, stomach pain and fever. 180 kilometers the racer overcame alone last in the peloton.

Millar recalls that he was struggling, the main thing was to just get there. But along with the terrible memories of this day, there are others.

- Thousands of fans were waiting for me at the curb. They drove me with such enthusiasm as if I were the leader. I heard my name louder and louder and understood that I needed to continue.

It was a Tour de France. I could not give up. Not here. Not in front of these people.

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Photo: skys146orts. com

British cycling led by Dave Brailsford - the man who was with Millar on the night of his arrest went to fight for the gold medals at the Olympics. As Britain’s most experienced cyclist, Millar was supposed to take on the role of captain in the Olympic team, but his past reminded himself. The British Olympic Association insisted on lifelong disqualification.

By some miracle, salvation was not long in coming. Just a few weeks before the start of the Games, the Arbitration Sports Court ruled that the lifelong sanctions imposed by the British Olympic Association are illegal. The disqualification of Millard was canceled.

“It was a celebration of the 60th anniversary of my mother,” Millar recalls, “the whole family gathered at my house in Girona. My sister came in and said she heard the news a couple of minutes ago that the lifelong sanctions of the British Olympic Association were lifted.

I went upstairs to the room and cried there. After all, this could not be expected. "

Photo: cyclist.


- That was awesome. We were at such a high level, Bradley won the “Tour”, Mark (Cavendish) became the world champion, we were facing the home Olympics. Looking back, I understand that we should not be so confident in ourselves, because our attitude only encouraged competitors. Everyone wanted not to win the race, but to get around our team. I am still very proud of how we rode, it was an amazing event.

It would be very difficult for me if I were not there.

Despite the failure to win, the inclusion of Millard was a bit of a return to his homeland after wandering for several years in the desert.

Photo: cyclist.


Preparation for the final Tour de France "underlies his second book, The Racer." But Sli215stream - the team he helped build - decided not to race him. According to Millar's memoirs about how he was refused in the last farewell round, it is felt that the pain did not go away.

- Once upon a time I wanted to take part in the Tour de France at least once. I have done this twelve times.

Could have been thirteen ... I always imagined my last Tour de France with the team. The news that they didn’t include me in the team created a huge hole in my heart.

It was sad, I still do not understand why they did this to me. But that is, that is. Cycling is really a roller coaster. Gifts are not worth the wait. You are as good as your last race.

Photo: cyclist. co

After leaving professional sports, Millar found himself working with the cycling team of Great Britain. He sets up young riders not only to perform at the highest level, but also explains how to cope with the temptation to take doping.

- British riders are very privileged. They are well protected and get every opportunity for development. Surprisingly, they now have a Junior Tour de France and are not dominated by the fact that in order to realize their potential, they will have to resort to prohibited drugs. Instead, now you just need to work hard, and only good genetics can help them. They are not going to see syringes or hear rumors about who is sitting on what and what this or that doctor is doing.

This is a healthy environment compared to what it was, and thank God!

You can learn more about the festival, films announced earlier and purchase tickets for screenings on the website

beatfilmfestival. com




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