Chris Froome’s anti-doping case has been dropped by cycling’s world governing body, the UCI.
The four-time Tour de France winner, 33, was under investigation after more than the allowed level of legal asthma drug salbutamol was found in his urine.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, which worked closely with the UCI, has accepted there was no breach and recommended the case is dropped.
The Briton said he was “grateful and relieved” to put an end to the matter.
“It has been an emotional nine months,” added Froome, who is expected to line up at the start of the Tour de France on Saturday.
“Thank you to all of those who have supported and believed in me throughout.
“I meant it when I said that I would never dishonour a winner’s jersey and that my results would stand the test of time.
“I have never doubted that this case would be dismissed for the simple reason that I have known throughout I did nothing wrong.”
Champion to ‘focus on Tour de France’
Froome’s adverse result followed a test on 7 September which showed more than the 1,000-nanogram per millilitre limit of Salbutamol was in his system.
The substance – which Froome says is used to help manage his asthma – is permitted without the use of a therapeutic use exemption but only within certain doses.
Team Sky said Froome was only 19% over the limit – not double as has been previously reported – when the adverse test was adjusted to take account of dehydration.
They also claim 20 other tests conducted on Froome during his Vuelta a Espana win did not need any “further explanation”.
Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said he always had total confidence in Froome’s integrity and that he was looking forward to helping him challenge for a fifth Tour de France.
“The same individual can exhibit significant variations in test results taken over multiple days while using exactly the same amount of Salbutamol,” Brailsford said.
“This means that the level of salbutamol in a single urine sample, alone, is not a reliable indicator of the amount inhaled.
“Chris has proved he is a great champion – not only on the bike but also by how he has conducted himself during this period.
“It has not been easy, but his professionalism, integrity and good grace under pressure have been exemplary and a credit to the sport.
“The greatest bike race in the world starts in five days. We can’t wait to get racing again and help Chris win it for a record-equalling fifth time.”
‘An important moment for cycling’
Tour de France organisers Amaury Sport Organisation reportedly did not want Froome involved in the race while his case was ongoing.
The adverse finding also prompted five-time winner Bernard Hinault to encourage strikes during the race in protest against Froome.
But Froome now looks certain to take part and challenge for a fifth title and a fourth Grand Tour win in a row following successes at the Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a Espana and 2017 Tour de France.
Another Tour de France win would also see him join Belgian Eddy Merckx, Spain’s Miguel Indurain and Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Hinault as a record five-time winner of the three-week race.
“I am very pleased the UCI has exonerated me,” Froome added in a statement.
“While this decision is obviously a big deal for me and the Team, it’s also an important moment for cycling.
“I understand the history of this great sport – good and bad. I have always taken my leadership position very seriously and I always do things the right way.
“I have never doubted this case would be dismissed for the simple reason that I have known throughout I did nothing wrong.”
‘I’m glad it’s all over’
The NHS says Salbutamol can relieve symptoms of asthma and though its use is permitted, Wada introduced dosage limits following concern over its increased use among athletes.
“I have suffered with asthma since childhood,” Froome added. “I know exactly what the rules are regarding my asthma medication and I only ever use my puffer to manage my symptoms within the permissible limits
“Of course, the UCI had to examine these test results from the Vuelta.
“Unfortunately, the details of the case did not remain confidential, as they should have done. And I appreciate more than anyone else the frustration at how long the case has taken to resolve and the uncertainty this has caused. I am glad it’s finally over.”