Inside Lines: Will Armstrong put spoke in Wiggins' wheel of fortune?


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Bradley Wiggins remains odds-on favourite with the bookies to win the revamped BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on 16 December, but there are growing concerns within the cycling fraternity that he and other two-wheeled contenders may suffer in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

While there is no suggestion that Britain's Olympic cycling stars have ever had anything to do with drugs, the fear is that the sport has become indelibly tainted and that the public vote may be adversely affected.

One SPOTY controversy that certainly will be avoided this year is the one that hit the 2011 award, when no women were shortlisted. Not only has the list been extended to 12, but the 12-strong panel that will decide on it includes half-a-dozen females and is headed by Barbara Slater, the director of BBC Sport.

So will a woman win? Unlikely, according to William Hill, who now put Andy Murray second favourite ahead of Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis.

Paralympian Ellie Simmons, who oozes personality – the commodity that the award nominally represents – remains a 66-1 outsider. Similarly the delightful Nicola Adams (100-1), who so changed the views about women's boxing among the more chauvinistic of my ringside colleagues that the Boxing Writers' Club last week gave her a special award at the hitherto men-only annual dinner.

Radcliffe still a runner

So Paula Radcliffe has lost her Lottery funding? Actually, no. What she has lost is Lottery support, not hard cash.

Radcliffe has not received the top-level £27,000 annual handout to elite competitors for some time, and as a millionairess based in the tax haven of Monaco it would have been scandalous if she had. Like several other star athletes, among them Ennis, Farah and Phillips Idowu, she is means-tested by UK Athletics who do not cash-fund athletes whose income from prize money, sponsorship and commercial deals exceeds around £30,000.

But there are impending cuts to a number of Olympic sports to be implemented by the funding body UK Sport under their debatable "no compromise" policy which decrees only sports that can show they will qualify for Rio 2016 are likely to receive any of the £508m of Exchequer and Lottery money the Government have pledged for sport over the next four years.

Hardest hit will be volleyball, who have already lost Dutch men's coach Harry Brokking because they cannot pay him, and handball, where the GB men's squad are having to fork out for air fares to a European Championship qualifying match in Greece on 31 October.

While Radcliffe can afford to keep on running, it seems for the less fortunate the Olympic party is well and truly over.

Smart move by Alex

Never one to miss a trick, the SNP leader Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, neatly timed the referendum on Scottish independence for the autumn of 2014. That means it comes shortly after the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, when no doubt nationalistic euphoria will be on a London 2012-sized, vote-catching high.

That's what you call a political Games plan.

Audley's no class act

We should have got the message when Audley Harrison entered the ring against David Price wearing knee-pads. His 82-second capitulation reminded us of the inglorious exit made by Brian London when he succumbed to Muhammad Ali at Earls Court without landing a punch. Next morning he was famously pictured at Euston buying a rail ticket back to Blackpool under the notice "second class".

 Not sure in which class Harrison was transported home to Los Angeles. Pity Ryanair doesn't do transatlantic.