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Millar: The Buck Stops With The Teams

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David Millar, who knows a thing or two about doping, has told VeloNews something I find very interesting: that if you want to stop doping, you need the teams to step in. His plan would follow the T-Mobile model of not only controlling the riders' lives more but screening them before they sign on. Teams have a good idea of what riders are up to, and can wield the power of the checkbook to force change.

This might be the most useful idea in existence right now. Let's face it: the judicial process is a mess, not only because it's poorly set up, but doping positives are simply hard to pin down as a scientific matter. The cat-and-mouse game of masking makes positives difficult to get even when the rider is cheating. Worse, the positives that are found are being challenged as false, or unexplained, or perhaps subterfuge... and IMHO the challenges raise enough troubling questions to make me and others throw up our hands. Or our lunch.

But turning it back on the teams... this can work. Teams can deal in innuendo. They don't need a positive test; they can just choose not to sign (or re-up) a rider over whom there are serious questions. This has a guilty-til-proven suggestion to it, so the power of the purse should be used as fairly as possible. But at least if the teams show they won't take suspicious riders, it places a great deal of pressure on riders to stay clean and above suspicion.

The ultimate solution to the doping problem is to create an environment where there is more pressure to be clean than there is to dope, and riders will be forced to clean up the sport. Passing the responsibility onto the teams beats waiting around for the judicial process or the UCI to command changes, because it shifts that pressure... maybe not right away, but the message to the next generation is that if you want a job, steer far away from even the taint of drugs. Over time, this just might work.