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Colombian rider to undergo “an altitude research programme” after tests raise concerns

Team Sky says that its Colombian climber, Sergio Henao, has been taken off its race programme as a result of concerns over values registered in recent tests he has undergone. It adds that he is returning to Colombia to undergo “an altitude research programme” following internal analysis of his physiological profile.

The move has been prompted by concerns over values registered in tests carried out by team staff on the 26-year-old, second in last year’s Flèche Wallonne and ninth overall in the 2012 Giro d’Italia.

The rider, who was born and grew up at altitude, returned home to Colombia in October for the close season and Sky says that while there, he underwent WADA-accredited tests.

In a statement published on Sky’s website, team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: "We have strong monitoring and compliance processes in this team, with the full co-operation of riders and coaches.

“In our latest monthly review, our experts had questions about Sergio’s out-of-competition control tests at altitude – tests introduced this winter by the anti-doping authorities. We need to understand these readings better.

“We contacted the relevant authorities – the UCI and CADF – pointed to these readings and asked whether they could give us any insights. We've also taken Sergio out of our race programme whilst we get a better understanding of these profiles and his physiology.

“We want to do the right thing and we want to be fair. It’s important not to jump to conclusions.”

Founded on a platform of zero tolerance of doping, Team Sky’s performance in the last two editions of the Tour de France, won by Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Chris Froome last year, has seen unfavourable comparisons drawn to US Postal’s dominance of the race with Lance Armstrong a decade or so ago.

That wasn’t helped by its employment on a short term contract of former Rabobank doctor Geert Leinders, who ceased working with the team in October 2012, alleged to have helped riders cheat while at the Dutch outfit.

The team has also come under scrutiny after it was confirmed in December that British rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke faces disciplinary proceedings in respect of an alleged anti-doping violation in connection with irregularities in his biological passport.

Tiernan-Locke's management "vehemently" deny the accusations, while Sky insists that the period to which the suspicious values relate is before he joined it at the start of the 2013 season.

Regarding Henao, Brailsford said: “Sergio was raised in the mountains, goes back in winter and lives and trains at different levels. We’ve looked as far as we can at the effects of this, but our own understanding is limited by a lack of scientific research into ‘altitude natives’ such as Sergio.

“We are commissioning independent scientific research to better understand the effects of prolonged periods at altitude after returning from sea level, specifically on altitude natives.

“The independent experts are looking to use WADA-accredited laboratories and Team Sky will make the data and findings available to WADA, the UCI and CADF.

“Sergio will help with this programme and we expect him to be out of the race schedule for at least eight weeks. Once we have completed our assessment, we’ll decide on the right steps and give a full update.”

Henao joined Team Sky at the beginning of the 2012 season, with his cousin Sebastian Henao joining him at the British UCI WorldTour outfit at the beginning of the current season.

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.

14 comments

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Him Up North [235 posts] 3 years ago
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Makes one wonder if Nairo Quintana and Movistar are experiencing similar anomalies. He winters in Colombia too, doesn't he?

Anyway, it's good to see Team Sky being open about it. Not that it will stop the "nudge nudge wink wink" brigade.

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Winton [67 posts] 3 years ago
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So are we to read from this that his haematocrit has gone sky high (forgive the pun)?

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Simmo72 [661 posts] 3 years ago
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What happened to the JTL issue, not heard anything for months?

The key thing here is its come out of an internal analysis. This is positive, this is prevention, this is what all physical sports should be doing. Human bodies can produce abnormal readings naturally so lets not jump on the dope wagon just yet.

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Konazing [7 posts] 3 years ago
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The shame about these stories are they are always tainted with the 'bad old days' Sky are doing the right thing but I do feel for Henao if he's done nothing wrong because like the above. Comments there is always people that jump to conclusion s and mud sticks

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Decster [246 posts] 3 years ago
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nudge nudge wink wink............

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jollygoodvelo [1670 posts] 3 years ago
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Henao? Don't dream it's over.

(Sorry.)

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Paul J [942 posts] 3 years ago
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That a team has internal monitoring programmes flagging things is a fairly positive indication. Bravo Sky.

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Super Domestique [1619 posts] 3 years ago
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Paul J wrote:

That a team has internal monitoring programmes flagging things is a fairly positive indication. Bravo Sky.

+1

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northstar [1107 posts] 3 years ago
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The truth will out soon : )

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brackley88 [170 posts] 3 years ago
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Gizmo_ wrote:

Henao? Don't dream it's over.

(Sorry.)

Darn it. Beat me to it. It's a quality gag. Guess the Team Sky base in Nice won't be such a crowded house after all.

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wwfcb [83 posts] 3 years ago
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brackley88 wrote:
Gizmo_ wrote:

Henao? Don't dream it's over.

(Sorry.)

Darn it. Beat me to it. It's a quality gag. Guess the Team Sky base in Nice won't be such a crowded house after all.

Ouch !  41 21

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Ghedebrav [1099 posts] 3 years ago
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Simmo72 wrote:

What happened to the JTL issue, not heard anything for months?

The key thing here is its come out of an internal analysis. This is positive, this is prevention, this is what all physical sports should be doing. Human bodies can produce abnormal readings naturally so lets not jump on the dope wagon just yet.

Yeah, I'd like to hear more about JTL. Not much transparency there.

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sorebones [139 posts] 3 years ago
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Ghedebrav wrote:
Simmo72 wrote:

What happened to the JTL issue, not heard anything for months?

The key thing here is its come out of an internal analysis. This is positive, this is prevention, this is what all physical sports should be doing. Human bodies can produce abnormal readings naturally so lets not jump on the dope wagon just yet.

Yeah, I'd like to hear more about JTL. Not much transparency there.

UCI due to announce on JTL case 'imminently', which in UCI speak means within a couple of weeks. Not sure what 'transparency' you expect before an official outcome though, surely an athlete has a right to privacy before his case is finally ruled on? It was an outrage that his result was leaked in the first place before he'd been informed.

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daddyELVIS [654 posts] 3 years ago
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Sky riders being pulled from races recently, now this - not looking too good.

This smells of a PR exercise to manage a 'situation'. I'm not too sure these are internal tests in the true sense of the word, otherwise this quote from the above story is very confusing:

"In our latest monthly review, our experts had questions about Sergio’s out-of-competition control tests at altitude – tests introduced this winter by the anti-doping authorities"

BTW - early season signs are that the arms-race is starting to level-out. I don't think Sky will necessarily dominate the TdF this year. Great to see Stannard looking good though!