LONDON (AFP) — Former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins says he is the victim of a “malicious” attempt to smear his reputation, vehemently denying he cheated during his glittering career that also includes five Olympic gold medals.
A damning report by lawmakers released Monday said Wiggins and Team Sky had crossed an “ethical line” by using drugs to enhance performance, not just to treat medical needs.
The report came after Russian computer hackers revealed in 2016 that the British rider had applied for therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) to have injections of the powerful corticosteroid triamcinolone before three of his biggest races — including the 2012 Tour de France, which he won.
But Wiggins said in an interview with the BBC that he only used prescribed drugs for valid medical reasons and when asked if he categorically denied cheating, added: “A hundred percent. Never, throughout my career.”
“This is malicious,” said Wiggins, who was the first British cyclist to win the Tour. “This is someone trying to smear me. These allegations, it’s the worst thing to be accused of.
“It’s also the hardest thing to prove you haven’t done. We’re not dealing in a legal system. I’d have had more rights if I’d murdered someone.”
Britain’s House of Commons report centered around Sky’s use of triamcinolone.
Triamcinolone, used to treat asthma, is an anti-inflammatory steroid that can also help cyclists shed weight without losing power. Wiggins, 37, denied the team had crossed an ethical line by using the medication.
He said he had only used triamcinolone on one occasion other than the three TUEs, which had already been made public, but the report said he may have taken it nine times in four years.
“I don’t know where that’s come from,” Wiggins said. “I really would like to know. This is an anonymous source, this is an anonymous person who has said this.
“I refute that 100 percent. This is malicious. This is someone trying to smear me.”
Wiggins said he had adhered to the rules in place at the time and had been granted permission by cycling’s governing body to take the drug.
When asked if he would have won the 2012 Tour without the drug, Wiggins replied, “Well, had I had an asthma attack, no, probably not. No.”
Team Sky said it took full responsibility for clerical mistakes that were made but strongly refuted the claim that medication was used to enhance performance.
Wiggins said he would try to repair his damaged legacy.
“I don’t know how I’m going to pick the pieces up with the kids and stuff, and I’m left to do that as well as trying to salvage my reputation from this,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”