Sunday 22 September 2019

Bradley Wiggins view on ‘inspiration’ Lance Armstrong is ‘unbelievable’, says UCI president David Lappartient

Bradley Wiggins Photo: Getty
Bradley Wiggins Photo: Getty

Lawrence Ostlere

The head of world cycling has branded Sir Bradley Wiggins’ comments of Lance Armstrong “unbelievable” and “not acceptable”, after Wiggins described the American as an inspirational figure.

Wiggins said on a radio show last week that Armstrong has nothing to apologise to him for, despite the disgraced American beating him to the podium at the 2009 Tour de France before later being stripped of his achievements after admitting to systematic doping.

“When I was 13 and I was living on a council estate in London, Lance won the world title in Oslo and he was 21,” Wiggins told TalkSport. “I was enthralled by it. I’m not saying he’s an icon ... 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. So many other people [tarnished the sport], so much goes on in the world anyway, bad things. Lance has paid the price heavily.”

The UCI president said on Friday that he disagreed with Wiggins’ assessment of Armstrong’s legacy.

“Bradley Wiggins is Bradley Wiggins. He always says some strange things,” said Lappartient. “When I saw [his comments] I thought ‘unbelievable’. The guy who won the Tour de France, he has been Olympic champion, he has been world champion, and he’s supporting Lance Armstrong, who has been banned for life for cheating.

“So for me this isn’t acceptable to have some statement like this, specifically from a former winner of the Tour de France. I fully disagree with what he said, of course, because we know now that this [career] has been based on cheating. But Wiggins is Wiggins.”=

Speaking on a range of topics to the British press 13 months on from his election win, Lappartient criticised Tour de France organisers ASO for only producing a one-day women’s race, reiterated his call to have the painkiller tramadol banned in competition, and defended the under-fire Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency) president Craig Reedie.

Reedie has been under pressure to step down following Wada’s decision to lift its ban on the Russian anti-doping agency (Rusada), among other high-profile controversies. The Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) was among those to call for the Scot’s resignation, in a fiercely critical open letter last week which Reedie said showed “an astonishing lack of understanding” of Wada’s work.

“I will not join the statements calling for Craig Reedie to resign,” said Lappartient. “From the discussions I had with him, I know he’s trying to do his best to lead the organisation but it’s not always easy. I don’t think asking him to step down is a solution. For me, I would like to give more power to the governing body, and the president. I’m calling for a stronger Wada.”

Lappartient reiterated the UCI’s push for tramadol to be included on Wada’s banned list. The former Team Sky rider Michael Barry claimed in a book last year that the team used the painkiller “frequently” in races, and it is currently on Wada’s watchlist of substances which may be being abused.

“We promise that we will ban tramadol for health reasons,” said Lappartient. “We hope that after this Wada will be able to put this on the list.” He added that “cycling is leading the bunch” in tackling doping in sport, with the UCI spending nearly 25 per cent of its overall budget on attempting to achieve clean riding.

Lappartient also said that the UCI will be announcing a committee next month tasked with developing ways to improve the sport’s entertainment value, making particular reference to Team Sky’s domination of the Tour de France. He added that he would be willing to discuss any issues with Team Sky’s principal Dave Brailsford, with whom he shared a public spat in the media earlier this year.

“No, not yet,” Lappartient said when asked if he’d ever met with Brailsford. “He’s a clever guy, I would be happy to receive his view on the way we must organise professional cycling in the future. I’m sure he would have some good input. I would be happy to sit with him.”

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