David Millar, Pharmacological Puritanism and the Anti-Doping Movement

The Lance Armstrong doping scandal has created an unprecedented degree of hysteria over the use of anabolic steroids, erythropoietin (EPO) and other performance-enhancing drug (PEDs) in the sport of professional cycling. The anti-doping movement often pretends to be about something more than enforcing an arbitrarily and capriciously defined morality. Lip service is given to the protection of the health of athletes by anti-doping rules. But in reality, these rules exist primarily to demonize users of steroids and PEDs as “sinners” who deserve to be punished.

Pro cyclist David Millar, the “reformed” former doper who is currently a leading anti-doping crusader in cycling, proudly and sanctimoniously defended the puritanical nature of the anti-doping movement in an interview with Donald McRae of the Guardian. Millar made the comments in response to statements by two former Tour de France winners who chose to defend Armstrong.

“I’ve thought a lot about them because I know [Alberto] Contador and [Miguel] Indurain. I was so disappointed when I read those comments. But I live in Spain and have lots of Spanish friends. Our Anglo-Saxon mentality is puritanical – ‘Punish ’em forever, they did wrong.’ But the Spanish say: ‘He’s a father of five, he works for charity, he rides a bike … let’s move on.’ It was incredibly inappropriate what they said and, believe me, they went ‘Oh shit!’ when it broke. But they had no idea that what they said was wrong because their mentality is so different.” (Emphasis added by author.)

There are likely cultural differences in the perception of doping. Perhaps steroids and PEDs are not stigmatized to the same degree in Spain. Perhaps doping does not have the same moral significance in Spain. But Millar’s arrogant defense of the superiority of the “Anglo-Saxon [puritanical] mentality” certainly can’t be the best approach to doping in sports.

David Millar, Photo credit: Petitbrun / Flickr


McRae, D. (November 5, 2012). David Millar: Cycling needs to face its dark period to climb out of abyss. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/nov/05/david-millar-cycling

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