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Miller apologizes for drinking and skiing comments

1/12/2006

WENGEN, Switzerland -- Bode Miller is backing down, for once.

The overall World Cup champion apologized Thursday for his comments about skiing and drinking during a televised interview, regretting the "confusion and pain" he caused.

The apology, while out of character for the usually obstinate and defiant Miller, was not unexpected given the concern the comments caused within the sport's hierarchy.

"The most important thing is that I wanted to come straight out and apologize to mostly my family, friends," Miller said at a news conference at the Wengen Elementary School. "But also we have a lot of people who supported me along the way, through my team and even just family and friends who have supported me, who I think are subject to only what the media puts out in America.

"And because of the way I made those comments in the '60 Minutes' interview it caused a lot of confusion and pain for all those people and obviously that's not something I want to do so, firstly, I'd like to apologize to them," he added.

The apology followed discussions with U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association president and chief executive Bill Marolt.

"This is a great step and this is something that needed to happen," he said.

Though he didn't specifically address Miller's role with the U.S. team heading for the Turin Olympics, he did say:

"Bode and his teammates have a great athletic opportunity here in Wengen this weekend. And we look forward to watching Bode and the entire team head to Torino next month."

Miller, who took no questions after his statement, didn't comment on the possibility of racing in Turin as an independent.

"He's apologized. It's great," teammate and friend Erik Schlopy said. "Hopefully, this will straighten things out."

International Ski Federation president Gian Franco Kasper said
the apology surprised him.
"But I'm happy," he told The Associated Press. "It's a good
thing and a clever move."
Miller angered ski officials, team staff and sponsors when he
said during the interview on CBS that "there have been times when
I've been in really tough shape at the top of the course."
"Talk about a hard challenge right there. ... If you ever tried
to ski when you're wasted, it's not easy," Miller said. "Try and
ski a slalom when ... you hit a gate less than every one second, so
it's risky, you know. You're putting your life at risk there. It's
like driving drunk only there's no rules about it in ski racing."
Asked during the program if the risk meant he would never ski
drunk again, the 28-year-old Miller replied, "No, I'm not saying
that."
The USSA was swamped with angry phone calls from team donors and
corporate sponsors after the "60 Minutes" piece. Marolt traveled
to Wengen immediately following Sunday's airing of the show to meet
with Miller.
"I was struck by the concern he felt about the impact his
comments had on his family, kids, and others who look up to him --
and that he took full responsibility for what he said," Marolt
said.
"Family and kids are important to him. ... And he recognizes
the responsibility he has inherited, maybe now more than ever
before."
Miller, who tied for third during training for Saturday's
downhill, also apologized to fans and the media.
"Obviously, the message that came through was not something
that I would promote or [what] I'm about in any aspect of my
sporting career," he said.
"I think the people who have watched me through my career can
say I don't ... put anything in front of my sporting career and in
front of taking ski racing and sports seriously. Those are the most
important things," he said. "And then on top of that I'd like to
apologize to the media because I've been not speaking with you guys
very much."
Schlopy noted that if Miller doesn't want to be in the
limelight, "then there are ways to go about being a ski racer
where you can achieve that."
"But he's also reached that level of fame where everything you
do is under the microscope."