By Agence France Presse
Ivan Basso should not be held up as a model for young riders, Scottish rider David Millar said on Saturday.
Millar said that despite 30-year-old Basso — who is allowed to ride competitively again from October 24, 2008, and has agreed a two-year deal with Liquigas — serving a two-year ban for his involvement in the Operation Puerto scandal he was in no way a role model for those aspiring to become professional cyclists.
“Basso never admitted to being doped,” said Millar, who was banned for two years in August 2004 for using blood-booster EPO when riding with Cofidis and who was retroactively stripped of his 2003 world time trial victory.
“He is neither a hero, nor a victim. He cannot be a model for the young people,” added Millar in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.
Millar’s comments come after the sport’s supremo Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), had said he would like Basso to be a point man for the fight against drugs, which has bedevilled the sport for the past 10 years.
Millar, who has repented since his drugs ban and has become a torchbearer for a new wave of professional cyclists who are fighting to bring about a new era in the peloton without doping, said he believed that contrary to public opinion the majority of professional cyclists were clean.
“We are in the middle of a huge cultural change which involves every element of cycling: riders, teams, sponsors, the press and the public,” said Millar, who now rides for Slipstream-Chipotle, the team that won the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday.
“Ten years ago, the majority of the peloton were doped,” he said.
“Today, it is only a small minority who are playing with fire.”