By VeloNews Interactive and wire services
Tour de France organizers on Friday barred David Millar from this year’s race after he allegedly told police that he has used doping products.
Jean-Marie Leblanc, the Tour’s director general, told The Associated Press that the reigning world time-trial champion was out.
“We don’t want to pollute the Tour,'” he said.
The 27-year-old Millar, who has never failed a drug test in his eight-year professional career, is the highest-profile casualty of a decision announced Friday by Tour organizers that all riders investigated or implicated in doping probes will be barred from the event, which starts July 3.
The Scottish rider had been held in police custody for 48 hours after being picked up an a restaurant on Tuesday in Biarritz, France. Police sources have confirmed that empty vials of Eprex (EPO) were found during a search of Millar’s home, and Millar is said to have admitted during questioning that he has taken the banned blood booster, according to a police official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The French sports daily l’Equipe reported that Millar will be formally charged with illegal possession of toxic products by Nanterre judge Richard Pallain, the man who has headed the Cofidis investigation since its inception earlier this year.
Leblanc, speaking by telephone with the AP, said Millar would not be able to race this Tour, “as with all riders who are involved either in judicial or police affairs.”
“We want a peloton that is as transparent as possible,” the Tour director said. “We don’t want to pollute the Tour. We want the race to run serenely and that it is not contested from the start.”
Officials with Millar’s Cofidis team said in a statement they were waiting to interview Millar before taking action in the matter.
“If it is established that (Millar) admitted to doping, then Cofidis competition will apply its policy of zero tolerance and take the appropriate measures,” the statement said.
Cofidis chief executive Francois Migraine said: “This could not have come at a worse time. We will rid ourselves of anyone found guilty when that time comes.”
Millar’s Cofidis team has been under investigation since January when seven riders and officials were charged with doping offenses. L’Equipe broke the story on the doping scandal and also obtained a police statement by Philippe Gaumont ,who admitted using EPO and accused the rest of the squad of taking banned substances. Millar had strenuously denied the accusations. Gaumont, Robert Sassone, Mederic Clain, Marek Rutkiewicz and Daniel Majewski were charged with doping offenses and have all left the team or been sacked.
Cofidis suspended its team from all competition from April 9 to May 5, depriving Millar of making his World Cup track debut in Manchester, a race he had planned to use as vital training for the Athens Olympics, where he had hoped to compete in the road race, time trial and individual pursuit.
A spokesman for the British Olympic Association on Thursday reacted to Millar’s predicament by saying his inclusion in their team was not currently in danger.
“Selected athletes fall under the auspices of the sport’s governing body, in this case British Cycling,” the spokesman said. “David Millar remains a selected athlete.”
Asked whether Millar denies the accusations, his manager and sister Fran Millar said: “This is obviously a legal investigation and the French lawyers have to speak to David. Everything at the moment is speculation. He will see the judge [in Paris who is leading the investigation] next week, but other than that his lawyers have advised us to say nothing.”
– Agence France Presse and The Associated Press contributed to this story
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