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Bode Miller's sponsors continue to back him


Bode Miller’s sponsors continue to back him{mosimage}Bode Miller’s primary sponsor is unhappy about the American ski champion’s comments that doping in sports should be liberalized, but will continue to back him.

Italian pasta manufacturer Barilla said it would allow the overall World Cup champion to continue expressing himself.

“I talked to our president, who wasn’t exactly pleased with his comments, but Bode is this way,” Barilla spokesman Fabio Fortina said Wednesday, Oct. 26. “He can say what he likes.”

Miller, who last year became the first American male in 22 years to win the overall World Cup title, has argued in favor of liberalizing doping – angering coaches, officials, skiers and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

On the eve of the season opener in Soelden, Austria, Miller said current anti-doping policies don’t protect athletes or force equal competition.

He also said doping tests catch athletes such as friend and rival Hans Knauss, who might have used drugs accidentally. The Austrian was banned for 18 months after testing positive for nandrolone he says he consumed in a nutritional supplement.

Barilla is believed to pay Miller about $1 million a year, with performance bonuses that nearly double that amount.

Nike and ski manufacturer Atomic also said they would continue to sponsor Miller. Nike is expected to build an Olympics advertising campaign around the American.

“His opinion on legalizing doping is his opinion. We are not going to filter him or ask him to curtail his remarks,” Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said. “We’ve got a history of John McEnroes and Charles Barkleys, and we’ve never shied away from athletes voicing their opinions.

“If an athlete admits to doping and is banned, that is absolutely grounds for terminating their contract. But this isn’t the case.”

International Ski Federation rules say competitors will be sanctioned if they are caught doping. But “counseling others to commit an offense” also is punishable.

Miller said he did not use doping products, and WADA chief Dick Pound acknowledged the American was not advising anyone to do so.

“It’s a freedom of speech issue,” Pound said. “He’s not putting his arm around some kid saying, ‘My boy, this is what you should be doing.’ He’s saying ‘Why don’t we change the doping rules?’

“It is pretty goofy. But there is always going to be some guy on his soapbox saying things. If he enjoys the attention, good for him.”

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