Bio passport charges for Team Sky's Jonathan Tiernan-Locke

Team Sky rider "vehemently denies" charges and plans to fight them

by Simon_MacMichael   December 17, 2013  

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke GCN YouTube still

The UCI has asked British Cycling to open disciplinary proceedings against Team Sky's Jonathan Tiernan-Locke in connection with irregularities in his biological passport. A statement issued through his agent said that Tiernan-Locke "vehemently denies the charges brought against him and has informed the UCI that he fully intends to contest them."

This morning, the UCI issued a communiqué which read:

The analysis of the biological passport of Mr Jonathan Tiernan-Locke by the Experts Panel has demonstrated an anti-doping rule violation (use of prohibited substances and/or methods).

Consequently and in compliance with the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, the UCI has requested his National Federation to initiate disciplinary proceedings. 

UKAD and WADA have been informed of the matter pursuant to the UCI Anti-Doping Rules and the WADA code.

At this stage, the UCI will not comment further.

In September, Team Sky confirmed that the 28-year-old from Devon had been asked to account for differences in his blood values from samples taken in late 2012, a year in which he won the Tour of Britain, and those recorded after his move to the WorldTour team for 2013.

Team Sky says that it has suspended Tiernan-Locke from all of his duties with it while the case is ongoing and reiterated that the charges relate to the period before he joined it.

A statement from the team issued this morning says: "Team Sky notes that Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has been charged with a violation of the UCI anti-doping rules.

"We have been informed that he intends to defend himself against that charge.

"Jonathan Tiernan-Locke will not ride for Team Sky or take part in any team activities – including training camps and all team duties – until a decision is made in this disciplinary hearing process.

"We understand that the violation was highlighted by an anomaly in his Biological Passport, in a reading taken before he signed for this team.

"There are no doubts about his approach or performance in Team Sky. This is a team that trains, races and wins clean.

"At this stage, we will add no further detail until this initial disciplinary process is concluded."

Tiernan-Locke first started undergoing regular blood testing following his 2012 Tour of Britain overall victory.

He was riding for Endura Racing at the time, although in September, the clothing brand that was the team's owner and sponsor claimed that for much of the year he trained under Sky's supervision prior to his move. 

Like Sky, Endura have said that differences in the rider's blood values could be down to factors such as illness or fatigue - Tiernan-Locke has struggled with both this year and has had problems adapting to the rigours of racing at WorldTour level - instead of doping.

The rider spent several years out of the sport during his early 20s as he recovered from a debilitating virus and concentrated on university, but attracted the attentopn of top-flight teams when he won early-season French races, the Tour Méditerranéen and Tour du Haut Var, in early 2012.

His late flowering prompted suspicions to be raised by French newspaper L'Equipe, which following those victories asked: “Are we in the presence of a champion or a chimera? Tiernan-Locke can only be one or the other to win five races in a row.

“He’s part of a team from the third division, a category where the riders don’t have to submit to biological monitoring, via the blood passport programme of the Union Cycliste Internationale.”

The UCI's decision to request British Cycling to open disciplinary proceedings against Tiernan-Locke will have been made by an 11-member panel of experts. The proceedings themselves will be handled by UK Anti-Doping.

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Some of you guys have made some very valid points but no one knows the actual anomolies and all the factors involved. Do you think if this didnt get leaked in the first case and remained anonymous it would have been swept under the carpet, the uci would not like to be proved wrong, the rider is now not anonymous like before where he would have just been given a case number. 100% innocent man caught up in a career ending case. Just to make clear he has not tested positive for anything, now its down to experts opinions who have no proof either way, the same as he cant prove he hasnt doped in anyway shape or form. Give this guy support and look at the bigger picture.

posted by Slowslow [1 posts]
17th December 2013 - 17:10

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I have to say this has taken my by total surprise.

People I know in the sport have pretty much guaranteed me he would never dope. And yet here we are with the UCI confident enough to start some form of proceedings.

I am sure Brian Cookson would have wanted to be doubly, triply sure on this one before setting out on what will be a journey fraught with legal arguments and plenty of the "pseudo science" that gets under Sir Dave Brailsford's collar so much.

Interesting case to follow this one.

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posted by jimmythecuckoo [1184 posts]
17th December 2013 - 18:08

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Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
I agree that Sky suspending JTL is absolutely standard process and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, what is a bit poor is the way they have publicly distanced themselves from the guy. I say this because they know, they will know if JTL was doping last year or not... Why?because Jon was working nearly exclusively with BC and Sky from around June on-wards.

To say 'he's done nothing under our care' and 'this dates from before his time with us' is frankly lying... and leaves a foul taste in my mouth.

Also, I am very surprised that the UCI have gone for this case as the amount of data collected is very small to be able to make such bold statements as he definitely doped... actually to be really specific with the nature of the doping, or blood manipulation they believe he is supposed to have done.

Personally, whether guilty or not, I can't see how this will stand up to the due diligence of a full appeal case. They have all of 6 months data, taken during a time when the rider is known to have been in poor health.

It just seems strange to take the risk of pushing for a sanction when they could have gathered more data to make a more robust case either way.

My gut feeling is that Jon has been a pawn in a much bigger game... Poor Jon.


Yes, I think it is a case of the last part. The blood passport is only as good as the data. Look at how Armstrong was able to circumvent the process (I know this is conjecture, but you'd have to prove to me why a 38 year old rider out of the game for two years was able to get back on it against known dopers, when he is a known doper, without doping). He basically got a pass on the first passport report and then resumed his fiddling.

I suspect that they were interested to get a pre-Sky and Sky blood test to see how the process is being circumvented. Who knows if it was a specifically targeted attempt on Sky.....but it is shabby how he has been dropped. As I understand it the pre-Sky blood test came about while he was with Endura, but training with Sky, and so the claims about it not being Sky are not entirely accurate - though there was a fair amount of mud slinging from both Sky and Endura. No one wants to be associated with JTL it seems.

People seem to be arguing about him being innocent/guilty. I think the fact that it has gone so far without JTL being able to put this to bed is a fairly damning indictment on him. There have been a few cases of 'false' positives following poor collection techniques, but they usually relate to in competition tests, which are usually negative (you'd be incredibly thick to turn up to a competition 'glowing').

I think that professional sportsmen/women have pretty much abdicated the right to the innocent until proven guilty stance, because most of the time the tests don't prove anything even when they are guilty. All one can say is 'isn't it unfair that the others haven't been caught too'.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [968 posts]
17th December 2013 - 19:17

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ragtag wrote:
So JTL was training with Sky most of the time before he signed for them, so what have they done to show that he was clean? Nothing it seems.

Isn't it hard to prove a negative? Unless it is a situational crime of being in one place or another, it has to be fairly hard to show that you did nothing. Whatever could be put forward would only be an excuse for an odd reading. Not saying he is innocent or guilty, just think it is not an easy position to defend.

Was it at the end of the Tour of Britain he said something like he didn't even use supplements such as vitamins? Not that means a great deal.

It's very hard to prove a positive in a drugs test, which is why this is news. Armstrong's standard 'go to' response was "I've never failed a drugs test". It's the first rule of doping: deny, deny, deny. Even Di Luca keeps denying any wrong doing....he just mentions how unfair it all is.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [968 posts]
17th December 2013 - 19:20

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People the UCI communiqué reads

The analysis of the biological passport of Mr Jonathan Tiernan-Locke by the Experts Panel has demonstrated an anti-doping rule violation (use of prohibited substances and/or methods).

Which ever way you read it does it not read violation use of prohibited substances and/or methods, the panel would have thought long and hard before issuing the statement, the wording has been carefully chosen, I for one hope for British cycling sake that JTL can clear his name as i am sick and tired of explaining to non cyclist that the Armstrong days are behind us, looks like 2014 will be a constant battle with those doubters and sky cyclist being clean .

Andy H

posted by Andy Halls [10 posts]
17th December 2013 - 21:08

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What a pity for the sport whatever the outcome. However doping is not limited to cycling remember, I read some (dunno where so don't ask) that half the pro-tour golfers have been identified with doping.
Keyboard warriors are on form tonight I see.

posted by Guyz2010 [277 posts]
17th December 2013 - 21:10

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If found guilty then Sky may finally have to explain a few things, but I'm sure they'll have an explanation sorted. If JTL's previous team are to be believed, for the period in question Sky were over-seeing his training program. Have we got any investigative sports journalists who might get to the truth - Walsh has turned into a Sky fan and Kimmage has been marginalized - looks like they will get through this with carefully managed PR, just as they did when it turned out a certain dodgy doctor was working for them!

posted by daddyELVIS [216 posts]
17th December 2013 - 21:55

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daddyELVIS wrote:
Have we got any investigative sports journalists who might get to the truth - Walsh has turned into a Sky fan and Kimmage has been marginalized - looks like they will get through this with carefully managed PR, just as they did when it turned out a certain dodgy doctor was working for them!

..perhaps we could get someone as well informed, open-minded and impartial as yourself ?

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posted by fukawitribe [99 posts]
17th December 2013 - 22:07

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I see the no idea's, don't knows, no abilities and never done anythings see the need to right someones life off before the process is finished. Lets see what happens now rather than being judge and jury, it's what we'd expect for ourselves so why not for JTL.

mt

posted by timothy [32 posts]
17th December 2013 - 22:28

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IMO this is all very good news. possible doping has been detected early in the career of a top flight cyclist. BY THE UCI .( shurely shome mishtake!!). A full investigation will ensue. The truth, we hope, will come out. As to SKYs treatment of their rider, that is their call. Damned if they back him, damned if they sack him. But that is the price we will all have to pay if we want to see doping eliminated.

Of course there is some damage along the way. But to spring to JTLs defence at this time stinks of the discredited methods of LA and his entourage. Let us not forget that ruined proper competition and destroyed many careers whilst it was allowed to hold sway.

As for Walsh and Kimmage: surely it is better that the UCI itself is taking the lead on these matters. There are other journalists ( eg L'equipe staff) that are no friends of SKY and are as adept and stubborn as Walsh and Kimmage in pursuing these stories.

I don't say JTL is guilty, but I am glad for the sport that the bio passport system appears to be working to highlight possible doping.

posted by philtregear [71 posts]
17th December 2013 - 22:34

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Guyz2010 wrote:
What a pity for the sport whatever the outcome. However doping is not limited to cycling remember, I read some (dunno where so don't ask) that half the pro-tour golfers have been identified with doping.
Keyboard warriors are on form tonight I see.

Don't know if you saw the recent documentary with (dare I say it) Jody Marsh talking about steroid use? She interviewed a steroid dealer and he said he was dealing to everyone. Sportsmen, actors etc. But specifically named golfers….a surprise in some senses, but not in others.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [968 posts]
17th December 2013 - 22:35

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daddyELVIS wrote:
If found guilty then Sky may finally have to explain a few things, but I'm sure they'll have an explanation sorted. If JTL's previous team are to be believed, for the period in question Sky were over-seeing his training program. Have we got any investigative sports journalists who might get to the truth - Walsh has turned into a Sky fan and Kimmage has been marginalized - looks like they will get through this with carefully managed PR, just as they did when it turned out a certain dodgy doctor was working for them!

I quite agree. Walsh seems to have offered whatever olive branch he can to the cycling fraternity and it seems he does not want to stare controversy in the face. Makes me wonder about his particular beef with Armstrong.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [968 posts]
17th December 2013 - 22:38

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philtregear wrote:
IMO this is all very good news. possible doping has been detected early in the career of a top flight cyclist. BY THE UCI .( shurely shome mishtake!!). A full investigation will ensue. The truth, we hope, will come out. As to SKYs treatment of their rider, that is their call. Damned if they back him, damned if they sack him. But that is the price we will all have to pay if we want to see doping eliminated.

Of course there is some damage along the way. But to spring to JTLs defence at this time stinks of the discredited methods of LA and his entourage. Let us not forget that ruined proper competition and destroyed many careers whilst it was allowed to hold sway.

As for Walsh and Kimmage: surely it is better that the UCI itself is taking the lead on these matters. There are other journalists ( eg L'equipe staff) that are no friends of SKY and are as adept and stubborn as Walsh and Kimmage in pursuing these stories.

I don't say JTL is guilty, but I am glad for the sport that the bio passport system appears to be working to highlight possible doping.

I get the feeling that JTL is more of a sacrificial lamb if anything. And, I also think that the blood passport has well and truly been side-stepped for a good while. Catching riders when they turn pro (take a step up) is about the best chance the WADA affiliates have of catching the pro (dopers). If you consistently dope then you bloods won't change, if you take 'that step' then the bloods do.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [968 posts]
17th December 2013 - 22:43

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fukawitribe wrote:

..perhaps we could get someone as well informed, open-minded and impartial as yourself ?


hehe - if I ever had the opportunity, I'd start with some difficult follow-up questions after the initial question had been swerved with a typically rehearsed and sound-bite riddled answer! But then that's Kimmage's style and he's been painted as a lunatic with a grudge lately - whenever that happens to someone, I tend to think they're getting somewhere near to the truth.

posted by daddyELVIS [216 posts]
17th December 2013 - 22:56

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Sky probably feel as let down as everyone else. Their actions in stopping him from attending training camps and in doing so stopping him from working for them is the same as any of job.

I'm with Farrell on this one though, there is obviously enough evidence to charge him with the offence whether or not it will stick is another matter altogether.

In the end if he is guilty then i have no pity for him at all but if he's innocent then lets hope the truth comes out.

Also if it dates back to his previous team then do they get sanctioned ? Does anyone know ?

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2421 posts]
17th December 2013 - 23:00

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Contador's blood passport readings were never out of line

Charlie Horse

posted by ch [82 posts]
18th December 2013 - 0:24

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Because he's still at it.

posted by drfabulous0 [187 posts]
18th December 2013 - 0:32

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The Independent said this fellow asked for the top grade testing when he was back with the 3rd grade team, knowing he'd be heading to top tier and into the spotlight, but UKAD turned him down for logistics reasons though he offered to pay. Cut in UKAD funding in coming few seasons is 26% in real terms.

Sky could be forgiven for moving overseas to maintain proper scrutiny and reputation.

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/cycling/uci-blocked-drugs-tests-for-j...

posted by vbvb [165 posts]
18th December 2013 - 1:10

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Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
I agree that Sky suspending JTL is absolutely standard process and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, what is a bit poor is the way they have publicly distanced themselves from the guy. I say this because they know, they will know if JTL was doping last year or not... Why?because Jon was working nearly exclusively with BC and Sky from around June on-wards.

To say 'he's done nothing under our care' and 'this dates from before his time with us' is frankly lying... and leaves a foul taste in my mouth.

Also, I am very surprised that the UCI have gone for this case as the amount of data collected is very small to be able to make such bold statements as he definitely doped... actually to be really specific with the nature of the doping, or blood manipulation they believe he is supposed to have done.

Personally, whether guilty or not, I can't see how this will stand up to the due diligence of a full appeal case. They have all of 6 months data, taken during a time when the rider is known to have been in poor health.

It just seems strange to take the risk of pushing for a sanction when they could have gathered more data to make a more robust case either way.

My gut feeling is that Jon has been a pawn in a much bigger game... Poor Jon.

'Jon was working with Sky/BC almost exclusively from Jun onwards'

So we'll ignore the stage races he rode between Jun and Sep away with and for Endura:

Route de Sud
Tour Alsace (which he won)
Paris-Correze
Vuelta a Ciclista Leon (6th on GC)
As well as ToB

We'll also ignore the training days with Endura during that period, inc the preToB training camp in Sep...?

He was most definitely not 'almost exclusively' working with, for or under Sky or BC during that period. Or before it. He went on 2 (?) training camps with them, 1 of which was in April.

Even for the Worlds, he arrived to join the team just a couple of days before the road race.

posted by Sim1 [46 posts]
18th December 2013 - 2:19

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Those who say this kind of thing is bad for cycling, bear in mind that a sign of *effective* anti-doping is dopers being caught. I'd be more worried if we *didn't* have any such stories...

posted by Paul J [418 posts]
18th December 2013 - 7:34

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Precisely. It's a *GOOD* thing.

posted by andyp [630 posts]
18th December 2013 - 8:52

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vbvb wrote:
The Independent said this fellow asked for the top grade testing when he was back with the 3rd grade team, knowing he'd be heading to top tier and into the spotlight, but UKAD turned him down for logistics reasons though he offered to pay. Cut in UKAD funding in coming few seasons is 26% in real terms.

Sky could be forgiven for moving overseas to maintain proper scrutiny and reputation.

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/cycling/uci-blocked-drugs-tests-for-jonathan-tiernanlocke-8852279.html

I guess there are two ways of looking at all this. But the effort to get his bloods sorted early seems more of a way to circumvent the process, not an effort to prove his cleanliness. The first test is an important one because it gives a baseline reading for the athlete and so if there is a 'sudden' pick up joining a pro team then it shows some alteration of the athletes natural body processes (it could show the reverse too, but whoever heard of an athlete going backwards after joining a big team).

I don't think Sky going overseas really helps anyone but themselves. As we know the Spanish are not particularly thorough with their anti-doping (it was the reason why Armstrong moved to Girona). Also, imagine the financial burden the anti-doping authorities have trying to test 'their' athletes when they go overseas. Do they send testers to Tenerife to search out Froome? Remember Mr Horner's whereabouts trick? Well the alternative is getting the Spanish ADA to do the test, but that too comes at a cost. And with lots of these teams roaming around and their own limited budget I'm guessing it is not easy for them to find time and resources......the same used to be true of Australia. All that 'winter' training down under used to be a great way of escaping out of competition testing.

So if I wanted to go some place which allows me to train untested I would move outside the UK too.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [968 posts]
18th December 2013 - 8:58

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There was a mention somewhere on this site about not allowing comments on fatal accidents. (or something a bit like that)
To my mind this would be a prime case where that should happen.
As , I assume, none of the above posts are from JTL or his medics, we have no 100% definite idea of what is going on and idol speculation and name calling serves no purpose.
It's like reading the Sun!

posted by mattsccm [216 posts]
18th December 2013 - 9:03

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
If you consistently dope then you bloods won't change, if you take 'that step' then the bloods do.

That's not true though - no one is on EPO 24x7 or taking an blood transfusion every couple of days. The passport works if they take samples both in off and on stages of doping - the trouble with it is there's a very large 'recovery' grey area between the two when the values get closer and closer to each other, sometimes to the point where non-doping factors can explain the differences, which is where the expert panel comes in.
Clearly in JLT's case there are discrepancies and the expert panel seem to have judged they can't be explained by natural causes, it's still their informed opinion only though not proof but I can't see how he defends it unless he has his own clear medical evidence (but presumably he'd have already submitted that for the expert panel to consider and they've rejected it).

posted by fuzzywuzzy [58 posts]
18th December 2013 - 9:30

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fuzzywuzzy wrote:
(but presumably he'd have already submitted that for the expert panel to consider and they've rejected it).

I seem to remember it doesn't work like that. IT should still be private that it was leaked is a serious issue.

The experts decide there is a problem then ask the rider for evidence, that is where we are. What we don't know is how many cases there are, how many riders are asked to explain there passports.

Is JTL unusual? a single case in hundreds or is he simply one of dozens of referals each year?

Real problem for him, how do you prove you haven't taken drugs? There is no evidence that he has, just an opinion that something isn't quite right. On the basis of how bad his 2013 season was, why the change was he doping and stopped, has he had an illness, etc etc. ?

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posted by mrmo [851 posts]
18th December 2013 - 12:18

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Looking like Jesse Pinkman doesn't help either Cool

posted by stuartp [43 posts]
18th December 2013 - 12:36

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The problem (or the brilliance, you decide) with the passport programme is that there really isn't any tangible defence.

No one is saying, look, this is in your system, how did it get there, they are saying, your blood values are consistent with someone taking blood transfusions to boost performance.

The only concrete defence would be to demonstrate that the anomalies were natural, by repeating them under laboratory conditions... and that's not realistic for anyone.

So all that is left is to challenge the credibility of the findings. Ultimately I believe in this case Jon will win on those grounds (if he has the stomach and funds to pursue it to the end), however there is no winning this one... the damage is done already, his career is ruined.

Now should he be guilty, then that's fair enough, however assuming his innocence, that's a career down the skids for nothing.

I could bang on for ages as to why I believe he is innocent, but lets be honest, there is probably only a few people who categorically know either way....

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [98 posts]
18th December 2013 - 16:43

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Give the boy a break. He merely had a bottle of soda and packet of Quavers when out with his mates on the rocks.

posted by dogcc [65 posts]
18th December 2013 - 16:53

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Just in case any of you are interested, Lee Rodgers has lifted some of your posts and has taken the wee-wee out of them/you, over on his blog http://crankpunk.com/2013/12/18/jtl-sky-wtf/comment-page-1/

posted by Sim1 [46 posts]
19th December 2013 - 19:41

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JTL has (presumably) grown up riding the same roads and endured the same weather as most of us on here - we can empathise with him more easily than someone raised in continental europe.

We still cling to the general notion of fair play too

I think its unfair of crankpunk to say we give him an easy ride whereas we immediately condemn Johnny Foreigner.

Besides all that, Dave Brailsford has been a bit of a talisman of British cycling and its unsurprising that many have faith in his integrity despite what we may think about Murdoch.

IF (yes, IF) JTL has doped then he's thrown away a really golden chance and likely his career too.

posted by allez neg [385 posts]
19th December 2013 - 21:54

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