Sir Bradley Wiggins, 8 times Olympic champion and the winner of the Tour De France, has no doubt had a wealth of success throughout his career.
However, his success has not come without struggle. Wiggins has recently revealed that he was abused by a coach as a teen. He told Men’s Health UK, ‘I was groomed when I was younger, I was about 13, and I never fully accepted that.’
‘It impacted me as an adult…I buried it. My stepfather was quite violent to me- he used to call me a f****t for wearing Lycra and stuff, so I didn’t think I could tell him.’
‘I was such a loner. I just wanted out of the environment. I became so insular.’
‘I was quite a strange teenager in many ways and I think the drive on the bike stemmed from adversity.’
Wiggins spoke to Men’s Health as part of their Talking Heads series, opening up about the abuse and the effect that it has had on his life. He also discussed his battles with depression, which he has managed through routine and exercise.
Since speaking out, British Cycling’s safeguarding team have reached out to Bradley, offering him full support after hearing that he had buried the abuse because he had no one to turn to for help.
A spokesperson from British Cycling has stated ‘we are deeply concerned by the matter raised by Sir Bradley Wiggins and our safeguarding team has made contact with him today…we would encourage anybody who has suffered abuse or has concerns about the welfare of others- regardless of when the incident took place- to utilise the support offered by our trained team at British Cycling and the dedicated NSPCC Helpline, which in turn helps us to ensure that our sport is a safe and welcoming place for all.’
NSPCC have also spoken out on the matter, praising Wiggins for his bravery in coming forward. Speaking to the Guardian, Michelle North, head of the charity’s child protection in sport unit, said ‘it’s common for victims to feel guilt and shame or to even be unaware that they are being abused, and some may not come to accept it until decades later but nonetheless the impact can be devastating and long lasting.’
Cycling is not the only area of sport that has been fraught with abuse allegations in recent years. Famously, the prosecution of Barry Bennell, football coach, and subsequent documentary ‘Football’s Darkest Secret’ brought to light the severity of child abuse within the football world. The prosecution of Larry Nassar in the US also unearthed years of sexual and physical abuse in high-level gymnastics teams across the world.
Albeit shocking, it comes as no surprise that abuse has become so engrained in the sporting world. Sports coaches hold a great deal of power and influence over children. They are trusted to care for young, impressionable individuals, building relationships which are all too easily exploited. Especially with their hopes and dreams to succeed in sport pinned upon coaches boasting reputation and influence, children are too afraid to speak out and often allow the abuse to continue.
Luckily, in recent years UK sporting institutions have increasingly turned their focus towards combatting abuse. Although it is unlikely that abuse will be completely eradicated, there are now forums/ support systems for survivors to access, allowing them to open up about their experiences and begin the journey towards achieving justice.
Survivors may also have the option to pursue a civil claim against a sporting institution, or make an application for criminal injuries compensation, where there has been a criminal conviction. Here at Farleys we are able to assist with both, which can run alongside each other.
We have represented hundreds of clients who have experienced abuse at the hands of their sports coaches. We have helped these individuals to seek financial redress for the physical and psychological pain they have endured as a result of the abuse they have suffered. Any compensation received can go towards the valuable support that is needed for survivors to be able to move on with their lives.
If you or someone you know is a survivor of abuse at the hands of a sporting coach, we are available to help and assist. Our dedicated team work tirelessly to support hundreds of survivors throughout the legal process, treating every case with sensitivity, confidentiality and integrity.
Contact us in confidence today on our abuse line on 0330 134 6430, by email or via the chat box below.