Sir Bradley Wiggins, 35, has spoken publicly for the first time about the drug-dealer father who abandoned him when he was a baby and was subsequently murdered.
The Tour de France champion who has his own children and a very happy marriage revealed the “agony” of being abandoned by his father at just 18 months old in an emotional interview for Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.
His father, Gary Wiggins, also a successful professional cyclist, was from Australia but met his mother, Linda, after coming to the UK in the 1970s. When their relationship broke down Gary returned to his native country and Sir Bradley didn’t meet him again until he was 18 years old.
"He abandoned us," Sir Bradley said. "It's never left me and it will continue to stay with me for the rest of my life."
Sir Bradley also revealed that his father used his nappies to smuggle amphetamines.
When Sir Bradley was 18 his father made contact asking to make amends and the teenager went to Australia to visit him. "He was living in a caravan park and didn't have a lot to his name: he was banned from driving, every now and again he'd just go off on one and drink himself into a stupor.”
Sir Bradley said his father “kept going on that he wanted to make up for the 18 years” he was absent, but it was only when the cyclist had his own children that he realised the true depths of what his father had done in leaving him.
“It dawned when I had my own , not only 'how could you leave and not have any contact or wonder at some stage what he's up to?' but for my mother as well, just leaving without any word, or money. I don't think I'll ever get over that, really,” he said.
In 2008 Gary Wiggins was found unconscious next to a road in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales and died soon afterwards. He was 55. Police described his death as "suspicious" and later said he had been murdered.
“I had a phone call out of the blue saying he'd been murdered," Sir Bradley said.
Sir Bradley shot to fame after the Athens Olympics 2004 where he became the first Briton to win three Olympic medals at a single Games for 40 years. He went on to become first Briton to win the Tour de France in 2012 and was awarded a knighthood the following year.
In the Radio 4 interview he also revealed he owes his career to his mum who put herself under severe financial strain to support his ambitions.
"My mum put herself in £50,000 of debt to service my sporting career. She did everything for me to pursue my dream," he said.
"I look after her but she's not a woman who wants a great deal in return. I think she's just content and proud maybe of the fact I've held a marriage together for 12 years and got two kids: the fundamental things, more than the sport, not the fact I've won the Tour but the fact I've become a good person."
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