Wiggins bows out with five Olympic golds and became the first Briton to win the Tour when he claimed the yellow jersey in 2012. But a cloud hangs over the Londoner after revelations about his use of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) was revealed by Russian hackers earlier this year.
The 36-year-old posted a valedictory statement on his Instagram page yesterday, accompanying a picture of his collected race jerseys, medals and trophies.
In it, he said: “2016 is the end of the road for this chapter, onwards and upwards, ‘feet on the ground, head in the clouds’ kids from Kilburn don’t win Olympic Golds and Tour de Frances! They do now.”
Wiggins, who conquered his sport on the road as well as in the velodrome, won his fifth Olympic gold in Rio this year as part of the world record-breaking pursuit team, adding to a tally that also includes a silver and two bronzes.
He competed in five successive Games from Sydney 2000 and reached a career high in 2012 when he completed an unprecedented double of a maiden Tour de France victory with Team Sky and a home Olympic triumph in the time-trial in London.
His retirement message read: “I have been lucky enough to live a dream and fulfil my childhood aspiration of making a living and a career out of the sport I fell in love with at the age of 12. I’ve met my idols and ridden with and alongside the best for 20 years.
“I have worked with the world’s best coaches and managers who I will always be grateful to for their support. What will stick with me forever is the support and love from the public though thick and thin, all as a result of riding a pushbike for a living. 2012 blew my mind and was a gas.
“Cycling has given me everything and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my wonderful wife Cath and our amazing kids.”
Wiggins departure comes at a time when cycling is once again under the microscope of anti-doping agencies and his use of therapeutic use exemptions has caused significant debate. It was revealed in September that Wiggins received three TUEs for an otherwise banned substance ahead of three Grand Tours, including the 2012 Tour.
Wiggins and Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford vehemently deny breaking any rules and insist triamcinolone was medically necessary for a pollen allergy which aggravates his asthma and the TUEs were approved by world governing body, the UCI.
But not everybody accepts that explanation.
Tom Dumoulin, the Olympic time trial silver medallist, openly questioned Wiggins’s TUEs for triamcinolone prior to three of the biggest races in his career, saying of the matter “it stinks”.
Dumoulin toldthat he found it “strange” that Wiggins — who broke no rules in using the drug, with the TUE approved by the UCI in accordance with WADA guidelines — had received intramuscular injections before grand tours.
“This is not something they do with normal asthmatics, let alone athletes who only have exercise-induced asthma,” Dumoulin said. “Apparently Wiggins’s injection also worked for weeks — then in my opinion you should be out of competition for weeks. That thing stinks.”