In an interview with British GQ Bradley Wiggins says that Lance Armstrong was simply “the best at drug taking.” The former Tour de France winner and Olympic gold medalist pulled no punched in an interview about doping in the sport of cycling.
As a clean rider, how hard have you found it to deal with the issue of drugs in cycling?
“I find it incredibly difficult, I don’t mind admitting that. What angers me is that I feel I have to justify my position now and what I am achieving. I understand why people ask the questions they do about cycling, but for me, personally, it is something I struggle to cope with and to keep responding to. I feel uncomfortable being the voice of today’s riders, like I am having to atone for the sins of another generation.”
You said you were shocked by the scale of drug use during the Armstrong era, but was it really such a surprise given the number of riders involved?
“I know what you mean. I think it became very much a race off the bike, in some respects. Back then, so much time seems to have been spent on the doping side of cycling, whereas we use all that time in other areas. For Team Sky, working on the bikes, developing the skin suits, high-altitude training, nutrition, this is where the gains are made. Going back to the Armstrong era, they put their efforts into the doping programme.”
Do you feel that the Armstrong scandal in some ways has taken the gloss off your Tour de France win?
“I don’t know, really. In some ways, I think it enhances what I did. Obviously there will be people who will say, ‘They must all be on drugs.’ But cycling is a different sport now. This scandal is very much a snapshot of what cycling was like at that time. It is not like that now.”
In some ways, this feels like the worst moment in cycling history, but on the other hand, it could be one of the best in that it allows the truth to come out.
“In a way, yeah, I agree. When Armstrong set that precedent of winning seven Tours, this incredible achievement by an unbelievable athlete, it set him apart in cycling. But the reality is, his success was built on lies. I look at him now and I think to myself, ‘He didn’t win those Tours fairly, so maybe this superhuman cycling legend was never as good a bike rider as me.” That makes me feel proud that my victories aren’t built on sand. No one will ever take that away from me. I have won the Tour de France.”
Do you feel let down by Lance Armstrong?
“No, I don’t. Because so many cyclists were doing it back then. You look at the guys that were finishing second or third or fourth, and they’ve all been done [for drugs]. Lance Armstrong was just the best at drug taking. But rather than feel let down by him, I think that whole generation let us down. I don’t think this has happened to any [other] sport, where a void has been created in a whole era. The closest thing I can think of is that Olympic 100-metre final with Ben Johnson [at Seoul, 1988].”
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