Redgrave: Wiggins is the best of the bunch

Daily Echo: Bradley Wiggins Bradley Wiggins

Sir Steve Redgrave believes Bradley Wiggins should be crowned the greatest sportsman of a superlative year despite cycling being tainted by the drug allegations surrounding Lance Armstrong.

The five-times Olympic gold medallist will be named tomorrow as one of the panel tasked with selecting the shortlist for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year.

Redgrave also said knighthoods should only be handed out to sportsmen who had retired, which would preclude the likes of Wiggins and Lymington-based four-time Olympic gold sailor Ben Ainslie from being knighted in the New Year's Honours.

And he believes he should never have won the Sports Personality of the Year award in 2000 after securing his fifth rowing gold medal at the Sydney Olympics.

But his most fervent hope was that Armstrong's cheating would not tarnish Wiggins' hour of glory.

Redgrave said: "Obviously there is a slight taint to cycling at the moment because of Lance Armstrong so there may be a bit of a backlash.

"There have been rumours about Lance for a very long time. The cycling world has a big tradition of having drug issues around their sport. There isn't anyone I have met who has said 'I'm really shocked to hear this'.

"In the last 10 years there has been a lot of publicity of drug cheats and doping issues within the Tour de France but as a sport they have cleaned up their act. What we are seeing now is, I hope, pure sport and not test tube enhanced. There is a chance people think that with how rife it was in his (Armstrong's) group that tar might stick on the people who probably aren't cheating now.

"But I think British cycling is clean. Maybe the reason why we haven't had a winner before (in the Tour de France) is that we tend to be a lot stricter with doping issues within this country."

Redgrave believes Wiggins' achievements, which included a time trial gold at London taking his Olympic medal tally to seven, outstrip Andy Murray's tennis feat in winning the US Open and Olympic gold and silver.

"We have had tennis players who have won Grand Slams," said Redgrave. "We have never had anybody who has won the Tour de France."

Redgrave was speaking following the launch of his iPhone app 'Sir Steve Redgrave's River Adventures', which is available to download for free from the iTunes store, but it was his opinions on the honours system which were equally adventurous.

For instance, he does not believe cycling's Sir Chris Hoy, who he was seen hugging after the Scot had broken his five-gold Olympic record at the London velodrome two months ago, should already be a knight.

Hoy is likely to end his career after competing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and Redgrave said: "I've got no issue with Chris being a knight but when we knew he was going to carry on after Beijing I wouldn't have given him his knighthood at that time.

"I would have waited until the end of his career and recognised him them. You cannot go above a knighthood.

"It has become almost automatic that if you win one Olympic gold you get an MBE, if you win two at separate Games you got upgraded to an OBE and then a CBE and if you win four then you are knighted. I don't think it should be that."

When asked if knighthoods should only be given to retired sportsmen and women, he added: "I think so. In the business world you have to achieve in a number of fields, in business and a big commitment in charity. In sport I think it should be more of a career recognition and not on a single basis."

Redgrave's criteria, however, would allow retired double gold-medal cyclist and current Strictly Come Dancing competitor Victoria Pendleton to be made a Dame.

"I'm not saying it is a shoo-in but she has had an outstanding career in sport," said Redgrave.

"She is there or thereabouts and with the issues she has been having in her life over the past few years as well it is not just straight sporting performance. There are other issues which are a plus not a minus in her career. It shows sports people are not these gods that some people put on a pedestal. We have real lives and have to deal with issues on the sporting field."

Redgrave revealed his own shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year so far also includes three Paralympians, wheelchair athlete David Weir, cyclist Sarah Storey and swimmer Ellie Simmonds. The winner must have excelled in the current calendar year, a restriction which Redgrave believes should have precluded him from winning the award as part of the men's coxless four in 2000.

"I will be fighting tooth and nail at the committee meeting that we should just be looking at this current year," he said.

"I believe I shouldn't have won it in 2000. I was involved in a team sport. In Sports Personality of the Year it should be about sports achievement. I don't think it should just come down to personality. I rowed in a four in 2000, of the people in that four Tim Foster, Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell, Cracknell won more races than I did.

"On physical results he was higher than me and I was picked out for what I had done for a lifetime. It was because it was my fifth gold medal not what I had done in 2000."

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