The cycling star who supped with the devil but broke ranks to renounce drug cheats

William Hill Sports Book of the Year award -- the contenders

The winner of the 2011 William Hill Sports Book of the Year will be revealed next Monday.  This week, The Sports Bookshelf presents a run-down of the seven titles on the short list. Today:

Racing Through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar (Orion Books)


By his 18th birthday David Millar was living and racing in France, sleeping in rented rooms, tipped to be the next English-speaking Tour winner. A year later he'd realised the dream and signed a professional contract with the Cofidis team, who had one Lance Armstrong on their books.

He enjoyed the high life a little too enthusiastically at times, breaking his heel in a fall after one well lubricated party. The parties were one means of escaping from the competitive pressures of the sport. But those pressures only grew and as Millar became increasingly frustrated with what was dubbed the peloton à deux vitesses -- in which the riders using illegal performance boosters invariably beat their clean rivals easily -- he began taking much more sinister risks, allowing himself to be sucked into the doping culture that many on the professional cycling circuit accepted was the only way to keep pace.

His world imploded on the night of June 23rd, 2004, when three detectives led him out of a restaurant in Biarritz, his adopted home, took him back to his apartment, which they searched in his presence and where they found two empty phials of the blood-boosting drug EPO and two used syringes.  After a night in jail he was presented with the case against him, told that phone taps already made would render any attempts to deny the charges pointless, and confessed to having used illegal performance-enhancing drugs in order to achieve some of his greatest triumphs.

But it did not spell the end of his career, even though there were plenty who would have had him banned for life.  After a two-year suspension, he found enough supporters willing to allow him back into the sport that he was able to resume riding and has since taken every opportunity to campaign against doping, determined to help save his sport by preventing others from falling into the same trap. He was so passionate about his cause that he once confronted Lance Armstrong, his former teammate, friend and father figure, at a party in Paris and accused him of abusing the sport. 

Millar’s story, which has been compared with Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride in the way it names names and exposes the dirty secrets of the sport, flying in the face of cycling’s code of silence, holds nothing back.


"Millar's harrowing description of his mental and physical ordeal on an Alpine stage of the 2010 Tour de France… during which he scoured the depths of his soul while falling helplessly behind the rest of the field, deserves to stand among the great first-person accounts of sporting experience."
--- Richard Williams, The Guardian. Read more…

"A sporting masterpiece, a timeless snapshot of a sportsman plummeting the depths and miraculously bouncing back both as a rider and a man."
--- Brendan Gallagher, Daily Telegraph. Read more…

"A gripping account of how obsession can lead a rider on a road to self-destruction."

--- spoke2spoke.com. Read more…


A Scot born in Malta, David Millar first rose to prominence as 23-year old when he won the prologue of the 2000 Tour de France and enjoyed a brief spell in the yellow jersey.  In all, he has won three stages of the Tour de France, two of the Vuelta a España and one Stage of the Giro d'Italia and is the only British rider to have worn the leader's jersey in all three Grand Tours. He was banned for two years in 2004 after admitting taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs but this year won the silver medal at the World Time Trial Championships. 

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The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize. As well as a £23,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a £2,000 William Hill bet, a hand-bound copy of their book, and a day at the races. 

The judging panel for this year’s award consists of broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; broadcaster Danny Kelly; and columnist and author, Alyson Rudd. Chairman of the panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop. 

The winner will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstone’s Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, on Monday 28th November.


The shortlist in full:
2. Into The Arena: The World of the Spanish Bullfight by Alexander Fiske-Harrison (Profile Books)
3. The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop by Bill Jones (Mainstream Publishing)
4. Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson by Paul Kimmage (Simon & Schuster)
6. A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng (Yellow Jersey Press)
7. 32 Programmes by Dave Roberts (Bantam Press)

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