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June 10, 2004, Stage 4: Bédoin to Mont Ventoux , 21.6km
Individual Time Trial
Scot David Millar, wearing the rainbow jersey as the UCI World Time Trial Champion, is in the final kilometer of the Mont Ventoux mountain time trial (photo). Behind dark glasses, the intensity of his eyes is nonetheless unmistakable and one wonders if they communicate his suffering on this climb or his off-the-bike worries. Probably the latter as Millar would finish far behind the stage winner in 76th place at over 12 minutes. This is the year of the Cofidis doping scandal afterall and for Millar, the heat is on.
Implicated earlier in the year by his former teammate Philippe Gaumont, who the following year, in 2005, would pen a tell-all book about his years at Cofidis, Millar has denied taking performance-enhancing drugs and has suggested that Gaumont is a nut case. But just two weeks after this Mont Ventoux time trial, Millar would be in police custody in France where under pressure he would admit to doping. He would further voluntarily acknowledge having used drugs specifically to win the time trial world championship and would give up the jersey to the runner up, Michael Rogers of Australia. Millar was suspended for two years and will be eligible to ride again at the 2006 Tour de France, with the Saunier-Duval team. To his credit, and despite his initial denials, Millar took responsibility for his actions. It remains to be seen how he'll be treated by fans at the Tour prologue, in Strasbourg.
Beyond doping, the Cofidis Affair illustrated the overzealousness with which both French police authorities and journalists have pursued athletes. On May 16, 2006, a French policeman was given a 10-month suspended prison sentence and fined over $12,000 for forging evidence in 2004 against former Cofidis rider Cedric Vasseur. Vasseur endured a suspension by his team because of it but ultimately was vindicated. Ten days later, on May 26, 2006, a judge in Versailles confirmed the indictment of two L'Equipe journalists who are accused of breaking the law in publishing sensitive information related to the Cofidis investigation. Though the journalists were not named on May 26, we know them to be Damien Ressiot and Dominique Issartel. Ressiot is also the journalist who in August, 2005 claimed to have proved that Lance Armstrong doped during the 1999 Tour de France.