Bradley Wiggins: “I get incredibly angry when I'm accused of doping”
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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Bradley Wiggins: “I get incredibly angry when I'm accused of doping”

by Ben Atkins at 11:21 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Doping
 
Tour de France winner says Armstrong “can get f***ed” if he doped during 2009/10 comeback

bradley wigginsWith the recent history of cycling being steadily exposed as having been dominated by doping, Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) - some would say naturally - found his performances questioned as he rode his way to Tour de France victory in July. Such was the British rider’s anger over comments made about him in Twitter however, that on July 8th - having spent his first ever day in the yellow jersey - he launched a curse-ridden tirade at his anonymous critics and stormed out of the post-stage press conference.

In an extract from his soon-to-be-published autobiography, printed in the Guardian, Wiggins attempts to explain his x-rated outburst by recalling a conversation he had at the time with French journalist and friend Hervé Bombrun of sportspaper l'Equipe.

Wiggins had tried to replicate his feelings over the doubts and criticism over his own performances by repeatedly telling Bombrun that he knew that the Frenchman’s children were not his own.

"Look, it makes you angry, doesn't it?” he had said when the Frenchman began to get upset. “It makes you want to come out fighting. It's like people telling me I'm cheating at what I'm doing; it gets me angry."

Wiggins goes on to repeat the statements he made in a Guardian column shortly after that infamous press conference, where he stated that he would never dope because being caught would cost him, and his family everything.

“It's a long list,” he said. “My reputation, my livelihood, my marriage, my family, my house. Everything I have achieved, my Olympic medals, my world titles, the CBE I was given. I would have to take my children to the school gates in a small Lancashire village with everyone looking at me, knowing I had cheated, knowing I had, perhaps, won the Tour de France but then been caught.

“This is only sport we are talking about,” he added. “Sport does not mean more to me than all those other things I have. Winning the Tour de France at any cost is not worth the risk.”

Carrying the can for Lance Armstrong and cycling’s dark past

One of the specific criticisms that Wiggins has faced in recent months has been of his apparent welcoming of Lance Armstrong back to the sport in 2009. He also remained silent - along with most of the peloton - during the period between the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) formally charging the American, and the final ratification of his life ban and loss of results last month.

This was all very different from the angry, outspoken rider from 2007, some said, who had thrown his Cofidis kit in the dustbin after Christian Moreni’s positive for testosterone had seen the team withdraw from the Tour.

Although he had never meaningfully raced against him before, the Armstrong that returned to the sport in 2009 was different to the one that had dominated the Tour for all those years, Wiggins says.

“By 2009 it had become clear that many of the top guys weren't clean at the time Lance was at his best – a lot of the guys who finished second to him were subsequently caught, and quite a few of those who finished third, fourth or fifth – but when he came back to the sport I quite liked him,” Wiggins explained. “He seemed much more relaxed, he seemed to be returning for reasons other than winning. He was quite gracious in defeat in some of those races; he was quite respectful, encouraging of what I was trying to do. I thought whatever had happened in the past had happened; it hadn't affected me in those years.”

“At the time I stuck to my line that Lance's return was a good thing for the sport,” the Briton admitted. “Without Lance's achievement in the Tour, Livestrong, his cancer charity, wouldn't have such a high profile and perhaps wouldn't be able to do the work it does. Without Lance, cycling mightn't be as popular – he made it cool in a way…

“I didn't know, of course, that eight or nine months down the line I was going to go toe-to-toe with him for a place on the podium in the Tour de France. With hindsight, I'm glad I never criticised him. I had to go and race with the guy and everyone around him. I know what Lance is like if you make an enemy of him. We've seen it in the past. He could have made my life very difficult.”

2009 was to be the only time that Wiggins and Armstrong would go up against one another for a place on the Tour podium - with both struggling the following year - and the American went on to deny Wiggins being the first ever British rider to finish on the race podium.

“If it were confirmed that he was doping in 2009–10, then he can get f***ed, completely,” Wiggins said. “Before, he wouldn't have been alone in what he was doing, but the sport has changed since he retired the first time.

“After 2009, what Lance was or was not doing directly affected everybody, because the sport was making a real effort; Garmin and other teams were being pretty vocal about riding clean. Ultimately I finished fourth in the Tour that year, by 38 seconds to Armstrong who was in third place; getting on the podium of the Tour might have been my only chance.”

Since this was written, of course, all of Armstrong’s results since his comeback from cancer have been stripped. Although the seven Tours between 1999 and 2005 have not been re-allocated, Wiggins has jumped up a place in the 2009 race; ironically this made him the first British podium finisher of the race, but it came exactly three months after he became the first rider to win it.

As the latest Tour de France champion however, Wiggins feels that he is - undeservedly - having to carry the can for the previous generation.

“On a personal level, the way I look at it now is that, as the yellow jersey, the pressure is on me to answer all the questions about doping – even though I've never doped,” he said. “I was asked the questions in the Tour and I gave the answers I did.

“So I'm pissed off that Lance has done what he did; it feels as if he's disappeared and I have to answer all the questions. That really, really annoys me. And where is he? Halfway around the world, doing this, that and the other. But we are the ones in this sport today who have got to answer all the questions.

“It feels like Lance has dumped on the sport and we've got to clean it up because he's not around any more… but as things stand today, I've won more Tours de France than he has.”

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