Bradley Wiggins vows to salvage his legacy after 'malicious' allegations
Sir Bradley Wiggins claimed he is the victim of a "malicious" attempt to "smear" his reputation after denying he had ever cheated during his career.
A report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee accused Wiggins, Team Sky and Sir Dave Brailsford of "crossing an ethical line" by asking for therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for banned medication they did not need.
The team and Wiggins have denied the allegations, saying they only used prescribed drugs for valid medical reasons.
Asked if he categorically denied cheating, Wiggins said: "One hundred per cent. Never, throughout my career."
Wiggins added: "This is malicious. This is someone trying to smear me. These allegations, it's the worst thing to be accused of.
"It's also the hardest thing to prove you haven't done. We're not dealing in a legal system. I'd have had more rights if I'd murdered someone."
Wiggins said that he was "hurt" by comments made by former Team Sky coach and British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton.
The DCMS select committee report centred around the team's use of triamcinolone to treat Wiggins' asthma.
Triamcinolone is an anti-inflammatory steroid that can be used for medical purposes but can also help cyclists shed weight without losing power.
The DCMS report said the team crossed the ethical line by using the medication, and this was denied by Wiggins.
"No we didn't," the 37-year-old said. "Not at any time during my career did we cross the ethical line. As I've said before, I had a medical condition, I went to a doctor, this has been treated since 2003 when I was diagnosed with it, through the doctors at British Cycling at that time.
"The treatment I was prescribed for that particular occasion, which was what, seven years ago now, under specialist supervision as well, and in place of the rules at that time, which you were allowed to apply for use of this medication.
"This wasn't a medication that was abused in order to gain an advantage."
Australian-born Sutton, an outspoken critic of doping, said in the report that the use of triamcinolone by Wiggins and the team had been "unethical".
"Yeah, that hurts me actually," Wiggins said. "Shane knows around that time exactly what and why I was taking that medication."
Wiggins insisted he had only used triamcinolone on one occasion other than the three TUEs, which had already been made public, but the DCMS reports said he may have taken it nine times in four years.
"I don't know where that's come from," Wiggins said. "I really would like to know. This is an anonymous source, this is an anonymous person who has said this.
"I refute that 100 per cent. This is malicious. This is someone trying to smear me. To do that to the sport, it's absurd."
He continued: "I've been gagged for the past 18 months because there was a legal investigation going on, so I couldn't say anything. Then they're still waiting on this DCMS report. I've never been asked, these allegations have never been put to me before now.
"I've only found out (on Monday) what I'm actually being accused of."
Wiggins said he would now try to salvage his damaged legacy.
"I'm in retirement and trying to do other things with my life. The effect it's had, the widespread effect on the family, it's just horrific," he said. "I don't know how I'm going to pick the pieces up with the kids and stuff, and I'm left to do that as well as trying to salvage my reputation. I wouldn't wish it on anyone."
Team Sky's owners are understood to be backing Brailsford.
Sky UK declined to comment on the committee's assessment of their cycling team but are thought to support the statement issued by the team in response to the report.
They acknowledged that mistakes had been made in medical record-keeping and oversight but "strongly refuted" the report's key allegations that medication has been used to enhance performance and that several riders, including Wiggins, used the powerful corticosteroid triamcinolone to lose weight ahead of races, including the 2012 Tour.
"We are surprised and disappointed that the committee have chosen to present an anonymous and potentially malicious claim in this way, without presenting any evidence or giving us an opportunity to respond,"they said.
The report was scathing in its assessment of Brailsford's evidence to the committee in December 2016 and said he bears much of the responsibility for the clouds that hang over the team.
The report did not address one of the biggest of those, the adverse test current star Chris Froome returned for a different asthma drug last September.
Wiggins left the team in 2015 and then retired after winning a fifth Olympic gold in Rio in 2016.