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Page last updated at 16:29 GMT, Saturday, 3 July 2010 17:29 UK

David Millar 'morally corrupted' by French team Cofidis


Millar reveals road to drugs ruin

David Millar believes French cycling team Cofidis were cynical in the way they encouraged him to take the performance-enhancing drug EPO.

"I considered this team to be my family and they took advantage of that," said Millar, 33, who served a two-year ban.

"They slowly corrupted me from being idealistic to being morally corrupted by the goals they were giving me.

"They were sending me to training camps with guys who were doping and they got me to room with the guys who doped."

Millar, who is riding for Garmin-Transitions in this year's Tour de France, described his slide from talented young amateur to banned drugs cheat in BBC Scotland's Sport Monthly programme.

The Malta-born Scot, who now campaigns against drug-taking in sport, said: "I was a very driven young man. I was 18 when I went across to France. I had to find my own club in France and learn the language.

"I disappeared off the grid from all my friends for about 18 months and was offered five contracts by the time I was 19, which was unheard of.

"But in doing that I lost track of reality. I began to think I was better than everybody else.

"It just became my whole life and I lost track of my roots."

Garmiin rider David Millar
Millar is now one of cycling's most outspoken critics of doping

Millar signed for Cofidis and won the 1997 Tour de l'Avenir prologue in his first season as a professional.

"When I turned pro at 19 or 20 and went into the ranks and learned immediately that there was prolific doping, it was heartbreaking," he said.

"I turned pro in '97 and, in 1998, we had the huge Festina affair and me and one of the other young guys who didn't dope thought it was all going to change.

"For a few months, it did change and then in 1999 it all kicked off again.

"I was isolated in France on this mission to become the best professional I could, which, when you are a young driven man, is easier to find yourself on that pathway.

"Before you know it, you are surrounded by 'yes' people and it's difficult to get off it."

Millar says he was a professional cyclist for four or five years before he first took drugs, despite being surrounded by them, claiming "it's amazing what you cannot see when you don't want to see it".

"There came a point when I was 24 that it was unavoidable," he said.

"I had grown up with the team. They were my home away from home. I had gone through the ranks of the team very quickly, a young Scotsman as the leader of the number one French team.

"They twisted my mentality. You convince yourself that is what you have to do.

Once you have done it, it is very hard to come out of it. Even if you have just done it once you live with it for ever

David Millar on the risks of taking performance-enhancing drugs

"I was getting paid a lot of money; there were 70 people working for the team and I was the figurehead.

"They treated me in a way that said 'if you don't do this then you are putting all our jobs at risk, we need you to be performing at your best'.

"It was slowly chipping away at your soul."

Millar was banned after confessing to the use of blood booster erythropoietin in 2004 and returned to action in the 2006 Tour de France.

He said of former team Cofidis: "I was a malleable personality. I had no roots. I think they knew they had that power over me.

"I blamed the sport for the decisions that I had taken. Once you have done it, it is very hard to come out of it. Even if you have just done it once, you live with it for ever.

"The management of the team were turning a blind eye.

"You fight so hard for so long and you just slowly start to give up."

Watch Rhona McLeod's full interview with David Millar when Sport Monthly returns to BBC Two Scotland on 10 August

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