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.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.