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Beeb boob again over Sports Personality of the Year contenders

T HE BBC report on Bradley Wiggins' accident this week bemused me.

Their reporter said: "Even in this summer of unparalleled British success, he stood head and shoulders above the rest. Bradley Wiggins was the sporting hero of 2012, but after making history with the yellow jersey and Olympic gold, his stellar year has ended painfully . . ."

So that's it, then. Wiggo is BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

The bulletin emphatically marked him above every other contender, even before the shortlist of 12 has been decided.

Wiggins may indeed be the grand cru of a vintage sporting year, and the man to be toasted on December 16 at what is already a Beeb sell-out. He is unquestionably worthy, but I was thrown by a senior BBC reporter voicing this opinion as fact on an issue on which the broadcaster solicits public opinion. This seems at best misplaced.

I am in no hurry to indulge conspiracy theories, though I have been so inclined in the past, notably four years ago when the claims of Lewis Hamilton were punted against those of the still-to-be-knighted triple Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy. My point then was that the massive exposure enjoyed by Hamilton conferred an advantage over Hoy, given the minimalist coverage of track cycling. Justice was done then, yet the Beeb does seem partial in promoting candidates for this year's honour.

Steering on their website is as much by omission as commission. Only four winners of Britain's 31 Paralympic gold medals feature in a photo slideshow of "possible contenders". This would seem to support Dame Tanni Gray-Thompson's assertion that there is little evidence of the Games having changed attitudes to disability.

I have heard critics argue that the Paralympics are less relevant because they are not open to all. I regard that statement as spurious and little short of discriminatory.

Fifteen Olympic champions, who accounted for 19 gold medals, receive honourable mention from the Beeb, yet that leaves 10 unsung: three in rowing, two each in boxing, canoeing and equestrianism, and one in shooting.

Paralympians and Olympians apart, the only others to feature are Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, and Lewis Hamilton, whose inclusion is further evidence of an obsession with F1. In 2008, Hamilton at least had the merit of being drivers' champion. Now he rates "contender" status by virtue of three wins and three further podiums in 18 races, and fifth in a contest which he can no longer win. It would make at least as much sense to include, say, Steve Lewis or Yamile Aldama, fifth in the Olympic pole vault and triple jump respectively. When the BBC panel determines the short leet later this month, Hamilton should not rate a mention.

Wiggins and Andy Murray are acknowledged on two tickets: Olympic titles and respective Tour and grand slam wins. It seems inconceivable they won't be nominated in the final 12. Yet the failure of double Olympic champion Mo Farah to make the shortlist for the world athletics body's Athlete of the Year Award reaffirms the truth that there are no certainties in sport – or even that ballots can be manipulated.

Both Wiggins and Murray have broken the mould, in much the same way as did Allan Wells when the Scot won Olympic 100 metres gold in 1980. Britain then was no more a country with track sprint tradition than it was this year when Wiggins and Murray made their indelible mark in their fields.

You might think there would be room only for winners (a debatable thesis when seeking a "personality", but let's not go there) in any list of "possible contenders". Yet the BBC list quixotically includes bronze medal diver Tom Daley. What about the other 35 British Olympians and 86 Paralympians who won "minor medals"? None of them is included.

Nor is there any mention of Coatbridge's Ricky Burns, who has twice retained the WBO world lightweight title this year, or of Carl Froch, who won the IBF super middleweight crown.

In the past three Olympic years, the winner has been an Olympic champion. In the three Olympic cycles before that they struck a blank, succumbing to Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell and Steve Davis. A Paralympic athlete has never won. This year's embarrassment of riches gives the panel drawing the shortlist an unenviable task.

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