Bradley Wiggins has broken his silence, saying he opted to use the powerful steroid triamcinolone to treat asthma and breathing problems and so put himself ‘back on a level playing-field in order to compete at the highest level.’ He denied he took the drug to obtain a boost in performance, saying: “This wasn't about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage.”
Wiggins was speaking on the British political chat show hosted by Andrew Marr.
The 2012 Tour de France winner has come under fire from a wide range of medical specialist and former riders and dopers who used triamcinolone to boost their performances in Grand Tour because the drugs is permitted if obtained via a Therapeutic Use Exception (TUE) from the UCI.
"If you look solely at the pattern of the TUEs of Bradley Wiggins then you would say that this looks very suspicious. It's something that a rider would do if he wants to perform well in a Grand Tour, something that I would do, something that I did," former Danish rider Michael Rasmussen told the BBC Newsnight programme.
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There is no suggestion that either Wiggins or Team Sky have broken any rules and the Briton's TUE was approved by the UCI doctor at the time. However the leak of Wiggins’ TUE data by the Fancy Bears' hackers has dented the credibility of both Wiggins and Team Sky.
During his interview on the Andrew Marr show, Wiggins claimed he had been "a life-long sufferer of asthma," and was struggling with his breathing before the 2012 Tour de France. He claimed he simply followed the advice of Team Sky’s doctors.
"I went to my team doctor at the time and we went, in turn, to a specialist to see if there's anything else we could do to cure these problems."
"This was to cure a medical condition. This wasn't about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage. This was about putting myself back on a level playing-field in order to compete at the highest level.
"When you win the race three weeks out from the Tour de France, as I did, you're the favourite for the Tour.
"(And) you have the medical team and coaches checking everything's OK - 'Bradley, you're on track here, you're the favourite to win this race, now we need to make sure the next three weeks... is there anything we can help with at the moment?'
"(I say) 'Well, I'm still struggling with this breathing, I know it didn't look like it but is there anything else you can do just to make sure that I don't, this doesn't become an issue into a three-week race at the height of the season?'
"And, in turn, I took that medical advice (to take triamcinolone)."
In response to criticism and questions
When asked about the possible performance enhancing qualities of triamcinolone, Wiggins avoided giving a direct answer, instead pointing out the abuse of the drug by Millar and Rasmussen, who have criticised his use of the drug via a TUE in recent days.
“They were abusing that drug in that era,” Wiggins claimed. “[They were taking] more of it, and abusing it, and – and this was to cure a medical condition. And the governing body, the World Anti Doping Agency, everyone said this wasn’t about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage, this was about putting myself back on a level playing field in order to compete at the highest level.”
Wiggins has been in the media spotlight in Britain since the revelations first emerged because of contradictions in his claims. In his 2012 biography he claimed he has only had injections for vaccinations. His TUE data revealed a different story. Wiggins now suggests he was referring to doping injections when the book was written by respected cycling journalist William Fotheringham.
“It was always a loaded question with regards to doping. Intravenous injections of iron, EPO etc, no one ever asked the question, have you ever had an injection by a medical professional to treat or cure a medical condition? There – there are two sides to that, and – and at that period of time it was very much with a doping emphasis in the question,” Wiggins claimed.
Team Sky is known for its continual search for marginal gains, it’s supposed zero tolerance to doping and desire to win the Tour de France clean with British riders. Team Sky is always looking for a winning edge and an advantage on its rivals. Wiggins insisted that he and Team Sky had never crossed any lines and broken any rules.
“We have rules and legislations in our sport and we are governed by our cycling’s government body and by the World Anti-doping Agency. Now, those rules are there. As athletes we don’t invent those rules, we have to abide by the rules and Team Sky, especially team – biggest cycling team in the world, 100 per cent everything that they have done in this has been within the rules and abided by the rules that are set to us, and – and we are being scrutinised for abiding by the speed list, the same within the speed limit.”
“At the moment it’s Team Sky, they’re leading the way, and you know, they’re setting the standard for everybody. And they’re the best of what they do, and unfortunately when you’re the best of what you do sometimes comes scrutiny. Especially in a sport that has a tainted history.”