Bradley Wiggins: People should not judge Lance Armstrong too harshly

Chorley Citizen: Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins

Eccleston cyclist Bradley Wiggins believes people should not judge Lance Armstrong too harshly, saying he too might have been tempted to dope had it not been for British Cycling.

The 41-year-old Texan was named by the United States Anti-Doping Agency this week as being a central figure in a major doping scheme by the US Postal team and has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

With 11 of Armstrong's former team-mates testifying against him, including Wiggins' fellow Team Sky rider Michael Barry, many have been quick to condemn him.

But Briton Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France champion, believes there are bigger issues on which to focus.

"It's not about Armstrong, it's about the culture of the sport for so many years," Armstrong said in The Daily Telegraph.

"People like Michael Barry, I can relate to that, 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, David Millar was the same.

"You shouldn't persecute people forever, we're not talking about Jimmy Savile here.

"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. The peer pressure was huge.

"But the culture has changed."

Armstrong's lawyers have described the USADA report as a farce, but Wiggins has little sympathy for a man who he always suspected of cheating.

"It is certainly not a one-sided hatchet job, it is pretty damning," he told Sky News. "I am shocked at the scale of the evidence.

"I have been involved in pro cycling for a long time and now I realise what it takes to train and win the Tour de France.

"I'm not surprised by it...I had a good idea what is going on."

Cheating was rife during the period of Armstrong's domination of the sport, but for six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy it does little to soften the blow of the report.

"In that era, there were a lot of people testing positive," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. "The guys who were coming second and third behind Lance were testing positive so there was an element of suspicion surrounding him, but I always try and give people the benefit of the doubt.

"It's so depressing because of the guy's books he wrote that were inspirational to people with cancer, and his cancer charity on one side doing so many positive things. Then you find out this."

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