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Former Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins will front a new campaign in the UK to help people recognize the signs of child abuse.
Earlier this year in an interview with Men’s Health Magazine, Wiggins accused a former coach of grooming him when he was a teenager. He said that he had been unable to discuss it with his stepfather as he had been violent toward him and said he buried it.
Speaking at an event to launch the initiative, which is being organized by the NSPCC [National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children], Wiggins said he only realized what he had endured after having his own children.
The Listen Up, Speak Up campaign is designed to give adults help with spotting abuse and what to do when they do.
“A lot of the time abuse becomes very normalized by the perpetrators and [you are] very, very unaware that is happening,” Wiggins said according to the Guardian. “And it’s not until later in life and particularly when I had my own children … I suddenly realized what I’d been subjected to as a child.
“This campaign is so important. I think we all have a responsibility as adults, parents, onlookers, coaches, and teachers to recognize the signs.”
Wiggins retired from racing in 2016 after 15 years as a professional. During his career, he became the first Britain to win the men’s Tour de France. He also won five Olympic gold medals on the track and road and claimed the world time trial title in 2014.
During the NSPCC event, Wiggins talked about how cycling — and sport in general — was a form of escapism for him and how it ultimately helped him to become a better rider.
“I kind of think it contributed to why I was so great at cycling. It’s a real contradiction in that the adversity is what gave me the drive to run away,” he said. “I think there’s a difference between being good and great at something, and my greatest ability was riding on my own.
“The drive that came within, particularly with cycling, it was a means to facilitate escaping from where I grew up. So, I’d ride for hours away from Kilburn … the bike became a vehicle to run away from my childhood problems. The longer I could spend on my own time trialing for an Hour Record or an Olympic time trial, in my own head was an escapism from the person I was.
“When I stopped cycling, I didn’t have that and I had to accept who I was. I think lots of people that are great at something have a drive that kind of stems from adversity … What we can do is change and accept it, learn to stop running away from it, and help others.”