"The nightmare is finally over and I am back to a normal life", said a relieved Vijender Singh as he broke his silence on the sensational drug scandal that severely hurt his reputation, insisting that more than a crisis, it was a learning experience that left him stronger and wiser.
Speaking to PTI in an interview, his first after the scandal broke out more than two months back, the Olympic bronze-medallist opened up about what he went through before being given an "all-clean" certificate by the National Anti-Doping Agency.
"The nightmare is finally over for me and I am back to my normal life. I have started training and looking forward to the World Championships in October," said the 27-year-old middleweight boxer, the first Indian to become world number one in international rankings.
"I am thankful to the Haryana Government, the Sports Ministry, the Indian Olympic Association and the Indian Boxing Federation for standing by me and because that gave me a lot of confidence. Now I am back to training in the camp and nothing can be better then this," he added.
It has been more than two months since Vijender found himself in quandary when his name cropped up in a massive drug haul after Punjab police recovered heroin, worth around Rs 130 crore, from NRI Anoop Singh Kahlon's house in Zirakpur.
The presence of a car used by Vijender's wife Archana near the house raised a media storm and on On April 1, Punjab Police said Vijender bought heroin for personal consumption on 12 different occasions from Kahlon.
Vijender denied any wrongdoing and underwent a NADA dope test which came out negative.
The strapping six-footer from Haryana said there are lessons to be learnt even in the worst of crisis and he learnt his while dealing with the controversy.
"I believe, whatever god does, he does it for the good, I always try to look at life like that. Even in this incident I am sure god must have thought something good for me," he said.
"Every incident, good or bad, teaches you something. I also learnt a few things. I realised who are my true friends and who are the hangers on. I realised that difference because all my good friends formed a ring of support around me," Vijender said.
"Another lesson is that I won't ever be as casually friendly with anyone as I used to be. I won't ever leave my car keys or my mobile phone with anybody. I have become wary of people which is quite natural given what I went through," added the boxer.
"I was in Mumbai when the whole thing broke out. Suddenly I see my car being found somewhere, people taking my name and questions being asked about whether I was taking drugs, it was painful," he said.
Asked if, even for once, he felt his achievements were being completely forgotten while his integrity was questioned, Vijender chose to laugh it off.
"May be the TV channels love me a lot, that's why they kept showing me for so long, it's ok, there is a price to pay if you are famous," he quipped.
In fact, he refused to call it the biggest crisis of his life, insisting that anything bad can always be worse.
"I don't think it was the biggest crisis of the life because life is like that only, it is unpredictable and I am taking it positively. I haven't lost faith in anything because I am a very optimistic person," he explained.
"I always try to see the good in everything and that gives me strength. Even when I lost in the London Olympics quarterfinals, I said to myself 'don't lose heart, god has his own plans'. Actually, life just goes on, you have to accept whatever challenge you face and become stronger," he said.
He has already missed a couple of exposure trips and won't be there for the Asian Championships next month after giving the national trials a miss. Vijender, if selected, will next be seen in action only at the October World Championships.
Asked if he is intimidated by the scrutiny that he would invite due to the scandal, Vijender said, "Scrutiny has never scared me because I have had detractors all my life."
"Even at the peak of my performance, my abilities were questioned by a lot of people. I don't mind that and neither do I get affected because that's not my job. My job is to train hard and deliver results in tournaments and that's how it will always be for me because that is the best way to deal with criticism," he added.
"My grandmother often told me 'log unhi ko badnaam karte hain jinka naam hota hai' (people malign only those who have a name) and I believe in that. My family and my wife stood by me like a rock during this crisis. I married Archana just two years ago, our life has just begun and there she was, supporting me all through."
Vijender also thanked his fans, saying their adulation formed a crucial cog in his support system.
"I am also thankful to my fans, they ignored whatever was being said in the media about me. I got so many messages of support from them. Yes, I was facing a challenge but I would say god is kind that he gave me a support system like this," he said.
"It's a closed chapter for me now. I just want to focus on everything that I do inside the ring."