Sir Bradley Wiggins has hit back at claims Team Sky ‘crossed an ethical line’ in their use of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for triamcinolone, claiming he '100 per cent' did not cheat during his career.
Wiggins was administered the powerful corticosteroid ahead of the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France, and the 2013 Giro d’Italia, which he has always insisted was to treat asthma and pollen allergies.
However, following an enquiry into doping in sport, led by MP Damian Collins, a report by a Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee stated their belief Team Sky had actually used triamcinolone for its performance enhancing benefits.
It was one of a number of accusations, including their belief it was implausible the so-called ‘jiffy bag’ delivered to Team Sky at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine contained Fluimucil for Wiggins.
The report also heavily criticised Sir Dave Brailsford and the poor medical record keeping of both Team Sky and British Cycling under his watch.
But Britain’s first ever Tour de France winner has strongly refuted claims he gained an unfair advantage, in a wide-ranging interview with BBC sports editor Dan Roan.
"Not at any time in my career did we cross the ethical line. I refute that 100 per cent. This is malicious. This is someone trying to smear me" - Sir Bradley Wiggins
Wiggins announced the interview on his Twitter page, stating he was breaking his public silence on the matter to ‘strongly refute all of the allegations, which are based on conjecture with no tangible evidence’.
The five-time Olympic champion, who retired shortly after claiming a British record eighth Olympic medal at Rio 2016, told BBC Sport: “Not at any time in my career did we cross the ethical line.
“I refute that 100 per cent. This is malicious. This is someone trying to smear me."
Team Sky also denied claims in the report that triamcinolone was used by several riders in the build-up to the 2012 Tour de France – the drug is not illegal, and does not require a TUE, when used out of competition.
The DCMS report cites an anonymous, ‘well-placed’ source which says Wiggins and his Tour team trained separately and used triamcinolone to improve their power-to-weight ratio.
But in a short statement on the team website, Team Sky angrily refuted those claims, saying: “The report makes the serious claim that medication has been used by the team to enhance performance. We strongly refute this.
“The report also includes an allegation of widespread triamcinolone use by Team Sky riders ahead of the 2012 Tour de France. Again, we strongly refute this allegation.
“We are surprised and disappointed that the committee has chosen to present an anonymous and potentially malicious claim in this way, without presenting any evidence or giving us an opportunity to respond. This is unfair both to the team and to the riders in question."
And Wiggins also reiterated his innocence, hitting back at the ‘witch hunt’ he has been subjected to, and the effect it has had on his family.
“I can't control what people are going to think but for some people, whatever you do it is not going to be enough," he told the BBC.
“I just don't know any more in this sport - you are damned if you do, damned if you don't.
“The widespread effect it has had on the family is just horrific. I am having to pick up the pieces with the kids - I would not wish it on anyone.
"The widespread effect it has had on the family is just horrific. I am having to pick up the pieces with the kids - I would not wish it on anyone" - Sir Bradley Wiggins
“These allegations, it's the worst thing to be accused of, I have said that before, but it is also the hardest thing to prove you haven't done. I’d have had more rights if I’d murdered someone."
Asked directly if he could confirm he had never cheated, Wiggins stated: “100 per cent, never throughout my career, no.
“I haven’t worked, and had the passion I’ve had for this sport for 15-20 years, to do that to the sport. It’s just absurd."
Pressed further on the contents of the ‘jiffy bag’ delivered to Dr Richard Freeman at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine, Wiggins also insisted he did not know what it contained.
Allegations arose that the package contained triamcinolone, but Sir Dave Brailsford told MPs at a Select Committee it actually contained Fluimucil – having initially tried to deny the package had even existed in media interviews.
Wiggins, however, insists he did not even know about the package, stating: “The first time I became aware of a package was when the Daily Mail contacted me in October 2016.
“But the way it has been reported is as if I have ordered this package and I am waiting for DHL to deliver it to me, and I have got to sign for it.
“I don’t run the team, I don’t run the logistics of the team, I was busy doing my job that I was paid to do. I didn’t even know there was a package until I was asked about it. It has become such a mess – it is ludicrous."