Sir Bradley Wiggins' reputation as Great Britain's most successful Olympian has been smeared by the latest scandal to beset Team Sky and British Cycling, according to double decathlon gold medallist Daley Thompson. The now-retired 36-year-old is at the centre of a furore over a mystery package delivered for him in 2011 which has acted as part of a parliamentary select committee investigation into doping in sport.
With five golds, one silver and two bronze medals, no athlete has more Olympic wins than Wiggins who collected his final title as part of the victorious men's team pursuit quartet who prevailed at Rio 2016. In 2012, he became the first Briton to win the Tour de France and is regarded as one of the country's finest ever sportspeople having enjoyed success in two different disciplines on the track and the road.
After having his usage of a therapeutic use exemption on three separate occasions, including prior to his Tour victory, exposed by Russian hackers Fancy Bears, Wiggins has found himself under fire regarding the contents of a medical package sent to him on the eve of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine. Team Sky boss Sir David Brailsford claimed the legal decongestant Fluimucil was contained within the package however there are no official records available to confirm the claim.
Wiggins is not due to appear in front of the select committee during the inquiry, while his former team have admitted to mistakes during the process. His doctor Richard Freeman has also dodged an invitation to give evidence while the UK Anti-Doping Agency are investigating both Team Sky and British Cycling's role in the scandal which is threatening to overshadow recent success in the sport at Olympic and global level.
Having won consecutive decathlon golds at Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984 and set multiple world records, Thompson is regarded as one of Britain's finest ever athletes and knows all about the pressures which come with achieving sporting immortality. "I feel sorry for him," he told IBTimes UK.
"Everything is obscured and everyone has doubts about him. That is a bit unfair. I definitely think that [his reputation has been tarnished]. But what can he do? He can't do anything until it all comes out in the open.
"He's leaving it up to his team, David Brailsford and all that and they're doing it the way they think. It hasn't been handled well in all truth. They've left a lot of questions unanswered. Until you know those answers you can't make a decision one way or another."
The fulcrum of Thompson's success came over a decade before National Lottery funding supported athletes prior to Olympic Games. The money has proved vital in turning GB wining one gold medal at Atlanta 1996 to a record haul of 67 in Rio – the most at any single overseas Games. However, Britain's decision to leave the European Union which increased costs for athletes competing and training overseas and government cuts has meant several sports have seen their funding withdrawn completing ahead of Tokyo 2020.
Badminton, despite matching its medal target in Rio, is among seven sports to have funding removed leaving its athletes having to raise their money capital through sponsorships and fundraising in order to continue their training. Thomspon says the experience will test the mental resolve the competitors in question.
"If you really love it and really want to do it then you'll prove that you were worth the money," the Notting Hill-born 58-year-old added. "To be honest everyone has their own motivation.
"Everyone is chasing their dream to a harder or lesser extent and if they're motivated enough they'll get up and go and do it and show the people that they're worth the money. If it was me, I'd still be doing it. I'd be complaining, but I'd still be doing it."