Speaking on TalkSport Radio, Bradley Wiggins said that Lance Armstrong was singled out for doping and whether people like it or not he is still an iconic figure.
The first ever British Tour de France winner said Armstrong inspired him as a kid.
“When I was 13 and I was living on a council state in London, he won the world title in Oslo when he was 21 years of age, and I was enthralled by it. I went out on my bike the next day and I thought I was Lance Armstrong. I went as far as I could go before I realised I’d better turn round before it got dark. Nobody can ever take that away from me, that feeling of freedom and going out on the bike and being inspired by him,” Wiggins said.
“I’m not saying he’s an icon. He’s iconic for good and bad reasons for me, but whether people like it or not, he’s iconic in some way, good or bad. I can’t change the way I felt about it when I was 13. I never realised then that 16 or 17 years later I would go toe to toe on Mont Ventoux with him for a podium place in the Tour de France.
“Hero’s a bit strong. From the human side – because I still speak to him. [I spoke to him] a couple of weeks ago. I know him as a person post-cycling, post what he’s been through. He doesn’t need to apologise to me, I don’t expect an apology. So many other people [tarnished the sport], so much goes on in the world anyway, bad things. Lance has paid the price heavily.
“OK, the sport has suffered, but he wasn’t alone in that.”
Wiggins denied he and Armstrong were ‘big friends’ but acknowledged a “mutual respect in terms of what we’ve been through, racing against each other”.
“He doesn’t need to apologise to me. I don’t expect an apology.”
“I see people on telly who just want to please and appease people asking them the questions, and you can get drawn into it. I got drawn into it, and you sit there and end up telling people what they want hear so you can get on with your life and get on with riding your bike,” he said.
“I’m not in that position anymore, I say what I think now, I don’t have key messages, I don’t have an agenda-led cycling team to keep happy, I haven’t got a team of PR people around me going ‘ooh you don’t want to say that because it’s going to look bad’. I ain’t gotta come out of the bus at the next race and face a line of journalists saying ‘you know what you said last week about this – can we just pick up on that?’, two minutes before you’re about to start a race. So I don’t care anymore about that.”
Remembering his reaction to Armstrong’s Oprah confession, Wiggins said he was like a robot that was being controlled by Team Sky.
“I couldn’t actually use my own brain. I see it more from the human side now. It is what it is. So much goes on in the world anyway, and there are so many bad things with this that or the other. Lance has paid the price heavily for what he’s done. Ok the sport has suffered, but he wasn’t alone in that. I think he’s been singled out as well,” he said.
“I have an opinion on it and not everyone is going to like it, but I’ve moved on now and I can see the world from a different perspective and it’s not just cycling. Yes, cycling has been damaged, but there are a lot of people to blame for that. There’s been a lot of corruption in the sport in the past, with the way it’s been run.”