Cavendish backs ‘redeemed’ Millar

David Millar, pictured competing in 2007

Cavendish says Millar (pictured) is now a dedicated anti-doping campaigner

Cycling superstar Mark Cavendish believes David Millar has paid the price for his doping past and deserves a second chance at London 2012.

Millar admitted taking a performance-enhancing drug in 2004 but returned to the sport after serving a two-year ban.

The veteran Scot, however, is still subject to the British Olympic Association’s lifetime ban.

“He’s redeemed himself. I would love him to be [at London 2012],” BBC Sports Personality of the Year Cavendish said.

“Dave cheated but he has realised what he did and learned a lot. He’s a massive anti-doping campaigner.

Mark Cavendish

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David Millar must compete at 2012 – Mark Cavendish

“He’s a good friend of mine and an incredible bike rider – incredible.”

The BOA’s hardline stance has been on the books since 1992 but Britain’s national Olympic committee is now the only one in the world to maintain a lifetime ban for anybody who has served a drugs suspension of six months or longer.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was recently forced to drop a similar sanction when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) ruled in favour of a challenge to it from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) because the IOC penalty did not comply with Wada’s code – a set of harmonised rules for sport that stipulates maximum bans of two years for first-time offenders.

Wada then challenged the BOA’s by-law and Cas is expected to make a ruling on its validity in April, with many legal experts predicting that Wada will win.

Millar, who turns 35 next week, captained the British team that helped Cavendish win the men’s world road race title in Copenhagen in September and claimed a silver medal for the time trial at the previous world championships in Melbourne in 2010.

Performances like these have helped complete a remarkable comeback for a rider whose career looked finished when French police found empty phials of the blood-boosting drug EPO in his apartment in Biarritz seven and a half years ago.

Cyclist David Millar

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Watch: David Millar relives doping battle

Millar has become an outspoken advocate for clean sport and sits on Wada’s athletes panel. He is also the only British rider to have worn all three of the Tour de France’s main jerseys (yellow, green and polka dot) and the only Briton to have led all three of cycling’s grand tours (France, Italy and Spain).

But it is Millar’s experience and leadership that Cavendish is so keen to harness in the Olympic road race on 28 July, a week after the Tour de France finishes in Paris.

Cavendish had seven team-mates to help him in Copenhagen – Britain’s first world road race victory for 46 years – but countries are limited to just five riders each at an Olympics, making it that much harder to engineer the type of finish – a bunch sprint – that the Isle of Man sensation currently dominates.

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“If we want to win the Olympic road race, we need Dave,” said Cavendish, who became only the second British rider to actually win a leading jersey at the Tour de France when he claimed the sprinters’ prize in July.

“If you want to win and make history, you need a group of people around you.

“As with Copenhagen, there couldn’t have been anybody else I would rather have been with than those seven guys and everybody else that worked so hard to get us there.

“It’s the same with London. There are certain people I would want to share that with and Dave’s one of them.”

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