Wiggins’ rant raises cycling’s eternal question
Bradley Wiggins winning the 2012 Tour de France(Image: ASO)
“I can never dope because it would cost me everything,” said current Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins in an impassioned article in The Guardian.
Wiggins put pen to paper (more likely dictated to a ghostwriter) in recent days following on from some aggressive confrontations with the media at this year’s Tour.
The Brit, not one to hold back with his opinions, has like other cyclists who have emerged from the peloton to take the yellow jersey faced increased scrutiny from those who are questioning the genuineness of his progress.
This was particularly the case after his and teammate Chris Froome’s performances in the stage nine individual time trial, where Wiggins defeated the time trial king Fabian Cancellara by almost a minute.
“I understand why I get asked those questions given the recent history of the sport, but it still annoys me,” wrote Wiggins on the speculation.
Wiggins’ contention on why he could never dope centered on the following: too much to lose by getting caught, for his family, his career and reputation; different culture in Britain where doping is morally unacceptable; and his loathing of the cheating culture that once dominated professional cycling.
On the whole the piece was praised as an emphatic denial and a worthy condemnation of cheating by cycling’s new hero. But what marks his arguments out from those who have come before him declaring their innocence?
The sad reality is the recent past of the sport taints the whole peloton. The praise of Wiggins’ claims are more about the hope that the sport has turned a corner and is now in the main clean, rather than Wiggins’ actual arguments.
Wiggins wrote: “It comes down to my family, and the life I have built for myself and how I would feel about living with the possibility of getting caught.”
Does that not apply to any cyclist when they consider the consequences of doping?
“I come to professional road-racing from a different background to a lot of guys,” continued Wiggins.
“There is a different culture in British cycling. Britain is a country where doping is not morally acceptable. I was born in Belgium but I grew up in the British environment, with the Olympic side of the sport as well as the Tour de France.
“I don’t care what people say, the attitude to doping in the UK is different to in Italy or France maybe, where a rider like Richard Virenque can dope, be caught, be banned, come back and be a national hero.”
How does this logic consider the career of Brit David Millar, the reformed “ex-doper” who has been welcomed back into the British cycling fold with Olympic selection and is lauded for how he has turned around his career?
Credit to Wiggins for openly tackling the doping issue. But through not fault of his own – rather the history of his sport – it will take more than words to convince the doubters.
It is cycling’s and cyclists cross to bear – the eternal question of who is clean and who isn’t.
Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.