Thursday 23 November 2017

Wiggins: There's no sexism, just bitter people who didn't make the grade

Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.
Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

Kevin Garside

The considered view of Bradley Wiggins is some testimonial for a coach with his head on the block.

Shane Sutton, who stood down in April as technical director of British cycling pending an inquiry into claims made against him of bullying and sexism by a disaffected rider, will have been thrilled at the sanction of Britain's greatest Olympian.

Wiggins returns home from Rio today after delivering his fifth Olympic gold and record eighth medal in the British cause.

Once again, British cycling has delivered on the track, substantiating the work of Sutton, whose influence is still felt by the coaching staff and the competitors - particularly Wiggins, who revealed the flow of texts between the two, the latest on the morning of his world record performance at the helm of the pursuit team.

Wiggins - husband to a wife, Cath, who is as entrenched in British cycling as he is, and with a 10-year-old daughter, Bella, who is already participating in the sport - is sensitive to the delicate political nature of an issue brought about by the incendiary claims of sprinter Jess Varnish, who was dropped from the Olympic team on performance grounds that she disputes.

We should be mindful, too, that the independent panel announced by UK Sport to investigate the claims of Varnish has yet to report its findings.

"I discussed it a lot with my wife (Cath)," he said. "She is a member of British Cycling, she races, organises races as well... if my daughter (Bella) wanted to get into cycling, would I be happy for her to go into British Cycling, and there's a women's academy? I 100pc would be.

"This whole sexism thing, I've never, ever seen any sign of that, really. I think there's a lot of bitter people that didn't make the grade, got the boot and they have now come out picking holes in things. Simply put, if my daughter wanted to get into it, I wouldn't have any problem with her going into British Cycling and getting the same treatment (as) if my son went into the lads' academy."

The panel is due to report after the Games. When it does, Wiggins expects Sutton to return to his post. "I think he will, yes," he said. "I don't see what evidence they can have, other than someone saying 'he said this to me, he said that'. I think the tone of how some things are said can be skewed. I don't want to dismiss the claims that have been made by certain people, but at the same time I understand more than anyone that there are two sides to every story.

"And there are two ways you can take on board when someone says something. How it's written isn't necessarily how it's said.

"I know Shane better than anyone and I believe he'll be cleared."

Varnish will be pained at Wiggins' backing for Sutton, but not surprised. She has powerful advocates of her own, not least Olympic gold medalists Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cook, both of whom acknowledged the broader allegations of structural sexism in cycling.

Wiggins is obviously close to Sutton and credited the Australian with British Cycling's Rio triumph, which included three golds and a silver before last night's guaranteed gold in the individual sprint.

"I would say all this stuff is a result of his work," Wiggins added. "He encouraged me to come back and I probably wouldn't have come back had it been somebody else in charge 18 months ago." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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