British Cycling offers Sir Bradley Wiggins “our full support” over grooming claims

British Cycling’s safeguarding team says that Sir Bradley Wiggins has “our full support” after the five-time Olympic champion and 2012 Tour de France winner claimed in an interview published this week that when he was aged 13, one of his coaches had sexually groomed him .

Wiggins made the allegation in an interview with former Downing Street director of communications Alastair Campbell for Men’s Health magazine.

“I was groomed by a coach when I was younger – I was about 13 – and I never fully accepted that… It all impacted me as an adult… I buried it,” Wiggins, now aged 41, said.

> Sir Bradley Wiggins alleges he was groomed by a coach as a teenager

A spokesperson for British Cycling, quoted in the Guardiansaid: “We are deeply concerned by the matter raised by Sir Bradley Wiggins and our safeguarding team has made contact with him today to offer our full support.

“We would encourage anyone who has suffered abuse or has concerns about the welfare of others – regardless of when the incident took place – to utilize the support offered both 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.”

Children’s charity the NSPCC has also applauded Wiggins for speaking out about his experience as a teenager.

Michelle North, who heads up its child protection in sport unit, said: “It takes a lot of courage to speak out about sexual abuse and Sir Bradley Wiggins has shown real bravery in revealing how he was groomed as a young cyclist by his coach who should have been protecting him.

“Sports coaches hold a great deal of power and influence over the children in their care and can all too easily exploit this trust to groom and abuse them.

“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,” she added.

Meanwhile, another of Wiggins’ coaches from his teenage years has spoken about how the young cyclist had confided in him about his earlier treatment.

Sean Bannister, who coached Wiggins from the age of 15 at Archer Road Club, based in Acton, west London told Mail Online: “I could point fingers, but I won’t.”

The 75 year old said: “Brad certainly did have some misgivings about a fellow who used to coach him.

“There were rumors about the man, but I think it will be up to Brad to name that person, and he hasn’t so far.

“I think, unfortunately, it’s a negative side of human nature. Ordinary people rarely achieve extraordinary things in life. And certainly Brad is an extraordinary person – very gifted, physiologically and very sharp mentally.”

Speaking of their time together at Archer Road Club, he said: “I used to race in a track league on Monday evenings and Brad as a 15 or 16-year-old went down there, and we used to chat.

“He then asked me if I would coach him, which I did for about three and a half years, and then he went on to the national squad.

“This is a difficult time for Brad,” he continued. “It’s a difficult situation. I am clearly a fan of Brad and he is very shy by nature.

“His coping strategy is that he presents himself as a rather risqué personality, but that’s just to mask the shyness.”

In his interview with Men’s Health, Wiggins also claimed that his stepfather, Brendon Bowes, had beaten him, saying: “My stepfather was quite violent to me, he used to call me a fagot for wearing Lycra and stuff, so I didn’t think I could tell him.”

His former coach however said that he had been surprised by those allegations.

“I was saddened to read that he said he had a hard time with his stepfather who I also knew fairly well, and I certainly didn’t see any bad behavior at all,” he said.

“In fact, the stepfather was very supportive of Brad and took him around all over the place.”

However, a family source quoted by Mail Online said that Mr Bowes – for whom Wiggins acted as best man when he remarried in 2003 four years after his stepfather broke up with his mother – denied the allegations made against him in the interview.

The source also said that Wiggins’ half-brother, Ryan, was the only family member in whom he had confided about the alleged grooming.

“They have guessed at who it could be, but don’t know,” the source said. “They don’t believe there were any signs he was being abused but feel awful that they missed it.

“For a lot of his family the first they will have heard of it will have been through this interview.’

“Brendon was really upset when he heard about the grooming – frustrated he couldn’t do anything about it because it was so historic and he didn’t even know the name of the abuser,” they added.

“He felt like any father would if they learned this about their son – he was livid. He has always seen him as his son. ”

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