Wiggins: 'I was lucky to avoid Armstrong drugs conspiracy'
Shocked Tour de France champ thanks British Cycling system for keeping him clean
BRITAIN'S greatest ever cyclist says he's shocked by the extent of Lance Armstrong's doping abuse, and has expressed relief that his career didn't go the same way.
Bradley Wiggins, who earlier this year became the first Briton to win the Tour de France and subsequently won gold in the Olympic time trial, spent much of Thursday sifting through the report released by the United States Anti-Doping Agency [Usada].
The report describes Armstrong, the seven-times Tour de France winner, as a "serial drugs cheat" and Wiggins admits he had no idea of the scale of the evidence against the American.
"It's pretty damning stuff. It is jaw-dropping the amount of people who have testified against him," said Wiggins.
One of the 11 riders who testified against Armstrong for Usada was Wiggins's former Sky team-mate, Michael Barry. The 36-year-old Canadian joined the Armstrong-led US Postal team in 2002 and for the first year remained clean. But, as he told Canada's National Post in an interview yesterday, Barry "saw what was going on around me [and] I figured out my room-mates were doping. And then it started to wear on me, seeing all the drug use around me".
Barry began doping and continued to do so until 2006, the year he left US Postal for the T-Mobile Team. In 2010 he joined Wiggins at Team Sky and spent two years riding alongside the Briton before retiring earlier this year.
Wiggins expressed his shock and sadness at Barry's confession, though he also said he could understand how the Canadian had fallen under Armstrong's spell. "People like Michael Barry, I can relate to that," explained Wiggins. "I turned pro 10 years ago, and how it felt going in aged 22, with the peer pressure with the likes of Lance Armstrong in a team like US Postal where it was systematic.
"You stand by the decisions you make then for the rest of your life... but those decisions stay with you for your whole career and I was very fortunate that I was in a system in British Cycling that, regardless of what team I was in, they supported me with the right way to deal with it. They probably saved me otherwise it might have been me, who knows."
But Wiggins was adamant cycling is now on the right path and that doping is no longer endemic. "The culture has changed," said Wiggins. "I don't think that it is relevant to what we are doing today. We are setting the example for our sport and we are one of the most successful sports for catching cheats."
Meanwhile The Guardian reports that Armstrong, who has gone to ground since the publication of the report, is coming under increasing pressure in the USA to respond to accusations that he committed perjury and intimidated witnesses. The paper also says the 41-year-old Texan might be forced to pay back millions of dollars that he earned over the years in prize money and sponsorship deals.