Never meet your Heroes. You can’t avoid it when the ex-Heavy Weight Champion of the World is in a lift in your office building. Big Frank Bruno was going up whilst our biggest cycling hero Bradley Wiggins is going down. Frank Bruno provided some of the most vivid sporting memories of my childhood, to say I was shocked to be shaking his hand is an understatement. Shocked about Wiggo’s TUEs? No.
Wiggo’s story is changing almost as often as he changed gears on the way to his 2012 Tour de France victory. The UK media love building up homegrown sporting heroes, almost as much as they like knocking them down. They did it to Frank Bruno. Whilst he’s not broken any rules (that we know of…yet) they’ve got Sir Bradley firmly in their sights.
Put aside his too convenient use of TUEs, timed to coincide with his 3 big Grand Tour attempts, that ‘no needles’ in his autobiography meant ‘not those kind of needles’, what does it say about our sporting heroes? It says we put them on a pedestal from which the only way is down.
There isn’t much difference between Team SKY and Armstrong’s US Postal. They both ride at a tempo that can destroy the peloton and they both employed institutionalised doping. The difference? Team SKY did it within the rules.
This puts Wiggins TUEs in a different light. When your employer tells you to do something how often have you said – No? If you’re offered the chance of promotion, a pay rise in return for doing something that doesn’t quite feel right – it takes a brave and courageous person to say no. Wiggo was just doing his job. He’s just has to ride the bike. He’s no doctor. It was his colleagues at SKY that were responsible for his preparation.
What does it say about our athletes? Complicit Robots? Naïve Robots? Or just supremely hardworking, dedicated and genetically superior employees. Elite athletes are just like us then. Human. Employees. They may achieve super human feats (by fair means or foul) but they’re just doing their jobs.
Hard work and dedication can achieve great things (in sport). We shouldn’t expect more or put athletes on pedestals if we don’t like it when they fall back down to earth.