Olympic cycling star Sir Bradley Wiggins said he feels “liberated” after revealing that he was sexually assaulted by his coach between the ages of 13 and 16.
While supporting an NSPCC campaign to help identify victims of child sexual abuse, the Tour de France winner spoke bravely about being cared for, getting over cycling and why he wouldn’t change his past.
The five-time Olympic champion, 42, achieved his life’s ambition in 2012 by winning the Tour de France, becoming the first British rider to do so.
However, in addition to the pressure that followed to repeat his success – and an injury that wiped out his ambitions – Wiggins realized that cycling had in fact been a form of escape after being sexually assaulted by his coach as a teenager.
Olympic cycling star Sir Bradley Wiggins said he feels ‘liberated’ after revealing he was sexually assaulted by his coach between the ages of 13 and 16
Wiggins told Men’s Health magazine UK: ‘I was looked after by a coach when I was younger – I was about 13 – and I never fully accepted that’
After Wiggins made the revelation that he had been groomed in an interview with Men’s Health columnist and former Labor spin doctor Alastair Campbell last year, a shift began to happen in him.
Speaking to the Express, the athlete said: “I feel liberated… which is a wonderful thing to feel.”
The father-of-three made the decision to share more about his grooming experience as he leads a new NSPCC campaign to help people spot the signs of child abuse.
‘Listen Up, Speak Up’ urges adults to follow a 10-minute online tutorial to help them understand how and when to raise the alarm if they believe a child is in danger.
It comes as the charity reported a 14 per cent increase in calls to its helpline from adults about sexual abuse concerns.
Wiggins spent much of his life trying to understand his relationship with his father, Australian cyclist Gary Wiggins, who left the family when Bradley was young and who died in 2008 following a battle.
“If someone had told me after I stopped driving that in a few years this is what you’d be doing instead of game shows and TV, I wouldn’t have believed them,” Wiggins revealed.
“It’s funny how things turn out and has a lot to do with where you are in your life. This is the most rewarding thing I’ve done because it’s such a humble subject for me and for many people – and a tragedy too.’
Speaking about whether he’s undergone therapy to help his trauma, Wiggins said, “No, I’m my own therapist, no one knows what’s going on in my head.
‘I’m not quite there yet, I would be open to it.’
The exact details of what Wiggins endured remain unclear because, like many trauma victims, the star “locked it out of his memory.”
“It has to do with remembering,” he said. “It’s coming out slowly. I can’t even tell you how many times it’s happened to me. I can only remember parts of it.’
A photo of a young Bradley Wiggins. Taken from Wiggins’ autobiography ‘Bradley Wiggins – Chasing Glory’
Wiggins was shocked last year when he realized that one of his ex-trainers, Sean Bannister, told a newspaper that Wiggins “always had doubts” about another trainer.
Up to that point, Wiggins said he had no clear memory of asking an adult for help.
That was harder to accept than to come out with [the abuse],’ he said, ‘that I had tried to tell someone. I didn’t know I had that.’
The abuse started after Wiggins discovered cycling at the age of 12. He had witnessed Chris Boardman win the individual gold in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics on TV and was inspired to follow in his footsteps.
Sir Bradley Wiggins (left) with son Ben Wiggins during the first day of the HSBC UK National Track Championships at the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome, Newport
His absent father during his childhood was six-day and seven-day racer Gary Wiggins, who died of head injuries believed to have been violently inflicted after leaving a party in his native Australia in 2008.
Wiggins first revealed his abuse to the world, telling Men’s Health magazine UK: “I was looked after by a coach when I was younger – I was about 13 – and I never fully accepted that.”
The NSPCC is the leading children’s charity fighting against child abuse in the UK.
If adults are concerned about children they can get advice from NSPCC practitioners on 0808 800 5000 or [email protected]
Asked if he had been sexually groomed, Wiggins added, “Yes. It all impressed me as an adult… I buried it. My step dad was pretty violent to me, he always scolded me for wearing lycra and stuff so I didn’t think I could tell him.
“I was such a loner… I just wanted to get out of the environment. I became so isolated. I was a rather odd teenager in many ways and I think the bike ride came out of adversity.”
In his 2008 autobiography, In Pursuit of Glory, Wiggins wrote of how his mother Linda’s new partner Brendan became his “quasi-stepfather” when he was a teenager and “supported him all the way.”
Wiggins previously spoke of suffering from depression and his troubled childhood.
He added that he spent much of his life understanding his relationship with his father, who left the family when Wiggins was young.
However, the athlete believes that he would not have achieved the remarkable success if he had a happy, stable upbringing.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “What matters when these things happen to you is what you do next. And as much as I have left a legacy in cycling, what I do now for the next 20 years is just as important.”