Bradley Wiggins has broken his silence on UK Anti-Doping's investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in cycling, saying it has provoked a "malicious witch hunt" that has been a "living hell" for his family.
In a statement posted on his social media pages, Wiggins welcomed today's announcement by UKAD that it was closing a 14-month investigation into a package that was delivered to his team doctor at the end of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine race in France.
As UKAD has been unable to prove what was in that package, commonly refereed to as the Jiffy bag, it said no anti-doping charges would be brought.
While this has "pleased" Wiggins, the 37-year-old has criticised UKAD for not issuing an "unqualified finding of innocence" and said he will consider his legal options.
Wiggins, who became the first British rider to win the Tour de France in 2012, wrote that being accused of doping "is the worst possible thing for any professional sportsperson, especially when it is without any solid factual basis and you know the allegation to be categorically untrue".
He explained he has not spoken publicly about the investigation until now "so as not to undermine it", although this has been difficult as there has been "widespread and unfounded speculation in the press".
He added that he has been "hounded" on his door step and pundits and riders have "waded in without knowing all the facts".
He wrote: "This period of time has been a living hell for me and my family, full of innuendo and speculation. At times it has felt nothing less than a malicious witch hunt.
"To say I am disappointed by some of the comments made by UKAD this morning is an understatement. No evidence exists to prove a case against me and in all other circumstances this would be an unqualified finding of innocence.
"The amount of time it has taken to come to today's conclusion has caused serious personal damage, especially as the investigation seems to be predicated on a news headline rather than real, solid information."
He then poses several questions he would like to ask UKAD, including who was the source of the original allegation, why it was considered credible, how much this investigation has cost and why it has taken so long.
He reveals that he spoke to UKAD for more than 90 minutes last November and handed over all relevant medical records in his possession. The agency, he claims, did not ask for any subsequent information.
On the medical care he received during his career, Wiggins writes that he placed his trust in the professional team he had around him, in this case British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman.
Noting the criticism Dr Freeman has received for his poor record-keeping, Wiggins defended him, saying he considers him to be "a very good physician (who) treated me and others with great care and respect".
However, Wiggins does write: "Had the infrastructure for precise record-keeping been in place this investigation would have never started."
Wiggins, who retired from cycling after winning a fifth Olympic gold in Rio last summer, finishes his statement by asking the media to give him and his family privacy while he assesses "which legal options to pursue".
"I would also like to take the opportunity to thank those who have stood by me and my family while this dark cloud has been over us," he added.
Earlier today, UKAD issued a statement to say it was closing its investigation into precisely what was delivered to Dr Freeman, and administered to Wiggins, more than six years ago.
The investigation opened in September 2016 and it later became clear the main allegation was that the package contained a banned corticosteroid, triamcinolone, while Dr Freeman and Wiggins said it was a legal decongestant called Fluimucil.
The decision to investigate came soon after Russian hackers the Fancy Bears revealed that Wiggins previously had undisclosed medical exemptions to use triamcinolone before the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and 2013 Giro d'Italia.
Initially, Wiggins' then boss, Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford, claimed the package could not have been delivered to the team bus at the Dauphine but he later told a select committee that Dr Freeman said he had asked for Fluimucil to be hand-couriered to France from British Cycling's Manchester base in order to treat Wiggins' allergies.
Unfortunately, there is no paperwork to confirm this in Manchester and Dr Freeman, who has been too unwell to answer UKAD's questions in person and has recently resigned from his role at British Cycling, lost his records when his laptop was stolen while on holiday.
In a statement, UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said: "Our investigation was hampered by a lack of accurate medical records being available at British Cycling. This is a serious concern."
Team Sky responded to the news by issuing a statement that said it was pleased UKAD had decided it would take no further action and repeated its strong denial of any wrongdoing.
In a more conciliatory statement, British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington thanked UKAD for its work, admitted the governing body had not met "the high standards" it holds itself to and acknowledged there had been a "blurring of boundaries" between it and Team Sky, which would not happen again.