What’s the story?
A new parliamentary report on combatting doping in British sport has made a series of allegations about British cycling, and particularly its heroic talisman Sir Bradley Wiggins.
He is the hero of British cycling; one of the country’s greatest sporting treasures. Yet now Sir Bradley Wiggins’ reputation is under serious threat, after he was placed at the centre of an inquest into doping in British sport.
A Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee has released its long-awaited “Combatting Doping in Sport” report, and it includes the suggestion that British cycling – so dominant in the global sport across the last decade – has used so-called ‘legal doping’ products to obtain an advantage in competition.
For example, decongestants and other medicinal products are legal, but their effects could potentially enhance performance if taken by someone who was not actually ill. They are technically legal, but as the report states, their use by a fit-and-well competitor “crosses an ethical line.”
The key example surrounds Wiggins’ use of a mystery substance delivered to him in a jiffy bag ahead of the final day of a 2011 competition (which he went on to win). Team Sky, for which Wiggins rode, claimed the package contained a legal decongestant, but there are also allegations that it was actually an anti-inflammatory drug. There’s therefore a huge lack of clarity around what was in the package, and whether it was being used for medicinal purposes or to otherwise gain an unfair advantage.
Wiggins – and his team – strongly deny any wrongdoing, but the allegations have opened a door to further scepticism about Team Sky’s practices, and the concern that many of the most influential figures in British sport may have been aware of them. It’s a devastating shock to a proud legacy, and a story which may now continue to grow as further incidents and sportspeople are investigated.
What have others been saying?
This BBC news ‘Q+A’ explains the ‘mystery package’ at the centre of the allegations.
Richard Williams in The Guardan asks if the allegations made against Wiggins now taint his legacy.
#1 – ETHICS: “EVERYTHING IS PERMISSIBLE”
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6 v 12 “’I have the right to do anything’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.’” Under the grace of God we can never do anything that puts us too far from God’s love and forgiveness, but that does not mean that we can just do or get away with anything. In the same way, there are things which are lawful (either within statutory or as in this case, sporting law), but that does not necessarily mean they are right or fair. If Wiggins used a legal substance to obtain an advantage in a race, he crossed an ethical line, even if not a legal one.
#2 – INTEGRITY
Sport is one of the key areas where we naturally expect participants to conduct themselves with honesty and fairness. Integrity is one of the key attributes that we seek in our heroes. In 1 Samuel 12: the great prophet and former leader of Israel gives his ‘farewell speech’ after handing over power to Saul and the line of Kings. He gathers the whole of the people together, and essentially invites them to publicly call out any lapses of integrity that he might have had over his long reign. Samuel says ‘“Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things I will make it right.’” (v3). Then comes the reply from the people: “‘You have not cheated or oppressed us’ they replied. ‘You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.’” Samuel is a blueprint for integrity in a role model.
Points for prayer
Pray that “nothing would remain hidden”, and that the full facts around alleged doping and British cycling would come to light.
Pray for Bradley Wiggins, that he would be able to answer all questions with integrity.
Pray that British sport as a whole would be able to move beyond both legal and illegal doping, and that any culture of cheating or unethical behaviour – in any sport – would die away.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.