I recently had a chance to sit down and have a chat with top cyclist, Bradley Wiggins, in his home in Walford.
JPB: Bradley, do you prefer Bradley or Wiggo?
JPB: Okay, Brad, I mean, you must be sick of talking about it but with the recent revelations I feel we have to talk about Lance Armstrong.
WIGGO: Well, I don’t think we do have to talk about it. There are many other things we can talk about. My Union Jack chairs, Quadrephenia, you know? My hair. It’s you journalists that want to talk about the negative side of cycling. It’s moved on and I’m a bit pissed off it’s kept being brought up.
JPB: I must apologise to my readers for Bradley’s language, but it’s an emotive issue.
WIGGO: Who are you saying that to?
JPB: My readers.
WIGGO: Why don’t you just not type that bit out?
JPB: I don’t… Anyway, listen, I love cycling. I really do and I’m not trying to cast it in a negative light, quite the opposite.
WIGGO: A negative dark?
WIGGO: The opposite of a negative light would be a negative dark.
JPB: A postive dark, actually.
WIGGO: Is that what you’re doing?
JPB: No. I meant a postive light.
WIGGO: Oh right, it’s just you said…
JPB: Let’s not… Look, I love cycling. Like many cycling fans I wasn’t surprised at all the hear about Lance. I mean, it was like Jimmy Savile.
WIGGO: It was a different era. You can’t live in the past, you know? I just look to the future.
JPB: It’s just… you’re dressed like you’re from the olden days. It was funny when you… I thought it was a joke.
JPB: Team Sky, they’ve got to the top by, how you would explain it?
WIGGO: Well, it’s not one thing, it’s the accumulation of many small things, you know? A 1% gain here and there. Equipment, training, nutrition. It’s just proving it can be done clean. Clean and fair.
JPB: See, here’s my problem. If you’re really interested in it being fair and a level playing-field why are you looking for these advantages?
JPB: Well, you know, if your wheels give you a 1% advantage then, well, it’s not a level playing field, is it?
WIGGO: Our wheels aren’t banned.
JPB: Yeah but-
WIGGO: Anybody could have wheels like ours.
JPB: If they had a wind tunnel.
WIGGO: Well, that’s not my problem, is it?
JPB: Of course not. I was just explaining people are outraged about the use of drugs in sport but sport is all about trying to have an advantage. You know, so the outrage is a bit, well, ridiculous?
WIGGO: A fair advantage. Not an unfair advantage.
JPB: I don’t understand.
WIGGO: Well. You must be stupid.
JPB: No arguments there. It’s just… well you mention nutrition. What would happen if you stumbled upon some food that made you 10% better at cycling. I’m talking about a food nobody else has eaten. Butterscotch Angel Delight mixed with… I dunno, Scampi Fries. Say you ate them one day, by accident and it suddenly made you 10% better at cycling. Would you eat it?
WIGGO: Is it on the banned list?
WIGGO: Well, of course I’d eat it.
JPB: Would you tell everybody about what you’d found?
JPB: Why not.
WIGGO: It wouldn’t be much of an advantage if everybody ate it.
JPB: But what’s the difference between Angel Delight and Scampi Fries and EPO.
WIGGO: Are you stupid?
WIGGO: It wouldn’t be on the banned list.
JPB: That’s the only difference?
WIGGO: It’s the effin’ big difference.
JPB: Thanks for holding that swear in. But the point is it’s only an unfair advantage if it’s not on a list? Even though the advantage you get is the same? I’m struggling with this bit.
WIGGO: It wouldn’t even work anyway. It wouldn’t give you a 10% boost.
JPB: Probably not but the point is morally… It’s like you’re defining a fair or unfair advantage based soley on a list of banned things written by some guy. You’re completely fine with doing something to gain an advantage as long as it’s not on this list. But if you do something that is on the list you’re suddenly Hitler. I don’t get it.
WIGGO: They’d probably ban the Angel Delight when they found out.
JPB: But you’d take it until they banned it?
JPB: Of course you would.
WIGGO: Maybe, I dunno. The thing is nobody can take EPO. Anybody could take Angel Delight.
JPB; This is what I mean, I’m not saying drugs are great but how does one thing make you a monster and the other is fine when both things make for a very uneven playing-field. Like, people seem to think sports people aren’t driven just to win.
JPB: I mean, let’s look at you. You came from nowhere-
WIGGO: Oi! I wasn’t a shit rider from nowhere, look at these Olympic medals.
JPB: You were a bit.
WIGGO: Fuck off!
JPB: You were a bit shit, before suddenly turning up in the Tour de France and finishing 4th you were a bit shit, come on? You’d won road race in the previous ten years as a pro.
WIGGO: I lost weight.
JPB: That’s what Lance Armstrong said.
WIGGO: But.. I’m English though. If I doped it’d destroy everything I’ve worked for.
JPB: Isn’t that true of everybody?
WIGGO: Because… I’m English.
JPB: And only dirty foreigners cheat?
WIGGO: They do.
JPB: Armstrong wasn’t very foreign.
WIGGO: Listen, I don’t… I’m ending this now. I don’t… I lost weight.
JPB: Okay mate, whatever, I don’t care if you did take banned stuff. Like I say, I think cycling’s great. I mean I read something that said if a rider in the tour was admitted to hosptial they’d be prescribed all these banned things.
WIGGO: Fuck off, get out now.
JPB: Alright mate, my laboured point is people all up in arms about drugs in sport don’t know anything about sport. And people should stop ragging on cycling. If there was a drug that made a footballer a better footballer even Michael Owen would be pumping it into his little Tiny Tim arms. The reason it’s so prevalent in cycling is because in cycling it actually works and sportsmen care about winning. EPO wouldn’t do anything for a footballer. It’s not that cyclists are dirtier. You know? I don’t know if you’re on drugs but sport is all about getting an advantage. Not getting caught doing it isn’t that much different from getting these advantages from other places, a wind tunnel or whatever. Hang on, I’m now outside Wiggins’ house in Walford, he bundled me out while I was talking.
Outside I realised I’d left my coat inside. And so I went into the psychedelic retro horror-show of a house. I found my coat, Bradley was in the kitchen reading the back of a packet of Angel Delight.