THIS year’s Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins says he is “shocked at the scale of the evidence” against Lance Armstrong, who has been described by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as “a serial drugs cheat”.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by USADA and banned from the sport for life after the organisation claimed, based partly on the evidence of 11 fellow cyclists, that he orchestrated “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”.
The American denies all the allegations but Wiggins told Sky News: “It’s pretty damning stuff. It is pretty jaw-dropping the amount of people who have testified against him.
“It is certainly not a one-sided hatchet job, it is pretty damning. I am shocked at the scale of the evidence. I have been involved in pro cycling for a long time and I realise what it takes to train and win the Tour de France.
“I’m not surprised by it...I had a good idea what is going on.”
Cheating was said to be rife in cycling when Armstrong competed but Wiggins was not about to sympathise for the 41-year-old Texan.
Britain’s first Tour de France winner continued: “Not really. My main concern is that I am standing here as the winner of the Tour de France after a summer where we have won how many Olympic gold medals? I’ve lost count... We are the ones picking these pieces up. For me it is about moving forward and not looking back any more to what happened ten, 15 years ago.
“It always is [frustrating answering questions about drugs cheats]. It is not something which sits easily. Everyone knows where we stand on that, it is about looking forward.
“We are one of the most successful sports for catching people. I don’t think that is relevant to what we are doing today. What we are doing today is setting the example for our sport.”
Scotland’s six-times Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy described the situation as “pretty depressing”.
“I haven’t read the report but it’s good to get it out in the open and show that nobody is too big,” said Hoy. “It’s been coming for a number of years, trying to change the culture, and Team Sky’s approach has been about zero tolerance so ambassadors like Bradley Wiggins can inspire people. The next generation can see that you don’t have to take drugs to win the Tour de France.
“Every day in the Tour de France you have to field questions about ‘are you on drugs?’ Bradley was frustrated but his frustration is not with the journalists or the media but with the previous generation who have let down the public. I’m a bit removed from it being a track cyclist but it’s difficult having aspersions put on you but all you can do is win clean.”
Armstrong’s lawyers have described the allegations as a hatchet job, but David Brailsford – the head of British cycling – said the report had cast a cloud of suspicion over the entire sport. “It is understandable now for people to look at any results in cycling and question that,” said Brailsford.
“It completely and utterly lost its way and I think it lost its moral compass.”
According to USADA, the report provides undeniable proof Armstrong was at the centre of a sophisticated doping programme. “It is shocking, it’s jaw dropping and it is very unpleasant,” Brailsford said. “It’s not very palatable. I think there are plenty of people out there who saw this guy and what he did as an amazing achievement.”