Tiernan-Locke blames 33-unit booze binge for doping ban

The British rider says an evening of celebration was to blame for irregular blood sample, rider confirmed banned by UKAD

by Elliot Johnston   August 18, 2014  

Jon Tiernan-Locke (picture Endura Racing)

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has claimed that a night of celebration with his girlfriend, in which he consumed 33 units of alcohol after going on a drinking binge, was to blame for irregular blood values in his biological passport which has seen him banned from competitive cycling for two years and sacked by Team Sky.

The claim was revealed today when the National Anti Doping Panel of UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) published its official ruling and reasoning behind last month’s decision to ban him from competitive cycling for two years from 1 January 2014.

It also fined him 70 per cent of his gross income during 2012, amounting to £15,400, and stripped him of his 2012 Tour of Britain overall victory and his 19th place in that year’s UCI Road World Championships in the Netherlands, where he was the first British rider across the line following a race in which he went on the attack alongside riders including Alberto Contador.

The mammoth bender the 29-year-old maintains he embarked on took place in the week between that Tour of Britain win, when he was riding for Endura Racing and the road worlds, with the night out in Bristol to celebrate his securing a lucrative two-year contract with Team Sky.

According to evidence presented by Tiernan-Locke at the hearing, he downed the best part of two bottles of wine over dinner with his girlfriend. Visiting several bars afterwards, he said he drank both wine and spirits, including six or seven double measures of gin before moving on to vodka.

The exact amount that the cyclist drank is unknown – both his and his girlfriend’s recollection was perhaps understandably hazy – but he said the volume, while excessive, wasn't unusual and that his "normal off-season binge drinking would include a full bottle of spirits followed by further drinks in bars."

His former manager at Endura Racing, Brian Smith, said in evidence that some leading riders do drink heavily, even during the racing season.

Dr. Kingsley Hampton, the expert who supported Tiernan-Locke's claims throughout the hearing told the panel that the cyclist had an alcoholic intake total of 335 grams - over 33 units - which led to "an acute severe toxic insult to the physiological system."

This, he said, resulted in severe dehydration, inhibiting the release of reticulocytes from the rider's bone marrow, and decreasing the volume of plasma in the blood, reducing his haemoglobin concentration.

The rider said that apart from a few sips of water when he took painkillers, he had nothing to eat or drink the next day when he flew to Maastricht to hook up with the other members of the Great Britain team.

Tiernan-Locke insisted that severe dehydration between the night out on 20 September and a blood sample being taken two days later contributed to the abnormal blood values.

However, the National Anti Doping Panel did not agree with his explanation and concluded that the sample's concentration of haemoglobin and the percentage of immature blood cells (reticulocytes) were well outside the expected parameters for the rider.

It said that on the balance of the evidence presented, while it could not dismiss his account of drinking to excess on the night of 20 September it was unable to accept the explanation advanced by Dr. Kingsley Hampton on behalf of Tiernan-Locke that he was severely dehydrated two days later.

It added that it was “inconceivable” that a professional cyclist set to make his debut in a World Championships would not have made sure that by the time he reached the team hotel, he would have ensured that he had drunk enough water to overcome any hangover.

The report said "the values disclosed in the testing... would be compelling evidence of the use of a prohibited substance or method, unless explained by some other factor."

The panel rejected Dr. Hampton’s assumptions regarding Tiernan-Locke’s supposed dehydration as “not actually substantiated by the evidence.”

It added: “It is the combination of the two factors, both an abnormally high Hb [haemoglobin] and an abnormally low level of reticulocytes, neither of which can be explained, which compels the conclusion that a prohibited method or substance had been used by the rider.”

Tiernan-Locke has the right to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with any such application needing to be made within one month of receipt of the panel's decision.

77 user comments

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I remember the US sprinter Dennis Mitchell got caught for doing in the late 1990's; he claimed the positive was cased by his drinking lots of beer and having had sex with his wife multiple times the previous night.! Remarkably the authorities decided the excuse was plausible and he wasn't banned.

posted by abbeybob [15 posts]
18th August 2014 - 20:06

20 Likes

Back in my partying days, I've drank enough on Friday night to nurse a hangover for the entire weekend. My colleagues and I in the forces would do just that the day before working on some heavy duty kit (including weapon systems), but we weren't directly reliant on body fluid levels to produce demanding physical performance. We really shouldn't have, but we were young and stupid. I guess the question is, are the pros that good that talent-wise, they could get away with it (the dehydration etc)? Stories abound of riders of yesteryear getting pissed and going clubbing in the middle of a grand tour.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3469 posts]
18th August 2014 - 20:39

21 Likes

abbeybob wrote:
I remember the US sprinter Dennis Mitchell got caught for doing in the late 1990's; he claimed the positive was cased by his drinking lots of beer and having had sex with his wife multiple times the previous night.! Remarkably the authorities decided the excuse was plausible and he wasn't banned.

Interesting. I think things have changed with the Lance Armstrong saga. Previously I think anti-doping agencies always had the hand-cuffs on. But with WADA and the National ADAs the decisions to prosecute an athlete becomes less political and more factual. Let's not forget that LA pulled a post-dated TUE from his butt and Verbruggen said 'fair enough' and buried the whole thing.

It is interesting to read some of the responses here. Some people sound like they can't quite believe that a professional cyclist doped. It is sad that he did, sad for him and his family. From what I read his family still believe in him. But the evidence seems heavily weighed against him.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
18th August 2014 - 20:40

17 Likes

notfastenough wrote:
Back in my partying days, I've drank enough on Friday night to nurse a hangover for the entire weekend. My colleagues and I in the forces would do just that the day before working on some heavy duty kit (including weapon systems), but we weren't directly reliant on body fluid levels to produce demanding physical performance. We really shouldn't have, but we were young and stupid. I guess the question is, are the pros that good that talent-wise, they could get away with it (the dehydration etc)? Stories abound of riders of yesteryear getting pissed and going clubbing in the middle of a grand tour.

JTL's bender does lie at the outer realms of feasibility. Just. It's possible he had 17 pints in one sitting, but to do so when you're a featherweight pro-cyclist rather than a 20 stone rugby forward is really pushing it.

What I find unbelievable is that he appeared to then have no water the next 2 days before his next test. Really? By then he should have been so dehydrated his urine should have been the consistency of a banana. Literally.

posted by Gordy748 [98 posts]
18th August 2014 - 21:02

24 Likes

We don't have to sit in judgement on this the experts already have and they've poured cold water all over the argument. The argument is not feasible, otherwise you'd get professional sportsmen soaking themselves in alcohol before every event (somebody's bound to talk about George Best and Tony Adams) to get the sort of blood values JTL got....best placed Englishman at the WC they said. Now that's the sort of hangover I'd love.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
18th August 2014 - 21:51

18 Likes

Shades of Floyd Landis?

posted by Zav [34 posts]
18th August 2014 - 21:56

23 Likes

It's very easy to dislike dopers and some of them are terrible at lying, but JTL has always seemed like a nice guy with a great back-story and always sounded honest in interviews.

When the original decision was made I wasn't 100% certain it was right with JTL's history of illness and the small number of tests that contributed to the bio-passport. However, having read some of the report it appears that the results of the tests were so extreme that they couldn't be explained away and JTL's attempt at an explanation is laughable for many reasons.

Let's hope he now does the right thing and reveals the names of those who helped him cheat.

posted by NeilG83 [260 posts]
18th August 2014 - 22:11

19 Likes

Aapje wrote:
If someone is caught standing over a dead body with the murder weapon in his hand, do you complain that he is 'presumed guilty'? That person also gets a chance to prove that someone else committed the murder, but in the absence of exculpating evidence, he will go to prison.

Um, not quite. The prosecution would have to establish that the deceased was indeed killed by that weapon, that the person found standing over him or her actually inflicted the fatal blow with the weapon, and that he or she intended to kill or inflict GBH. Fail to establish any of those elements beyond reasonable doubt and they don't have a case. And even before it gets to the point of charging someone, the CPS has to decide whether, based on the evidence in its possession, there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. A defendant's presentation of any evidence that they are not guilty is only part of the picture, and the defence certainly does not have to prove someone else committed the murder (if that's what it was), only at most that the accused didn't, and sometimes not even that - casting suffcient doubt on the prosecution's case will often be enough to secure an acquittal.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8495 posts]
18th August 2014 - 22:44

19 Likes

1. You have watched too many detective stories
2. You overestimate the rigorousness of the courts
3. You fail to notice that my simile was intended to make a point, rather than give a 100% accurate comparison. You could also argue that using doping is not equal murder or make other comments that miss the point.

posted by Aapje [196 posts]
18th August 2014 - 22:54

15 Likes

Aapje wrote:
1. You have watched too many detective stories
2. You overestimate the rigorousness of the courts
3. You fail to notice that my simile was intended to make a point, rather than give a 100% accurate comparison. You could also argue that using doping is not equal murder or make other comments that miss the point.

You failed to notice that Simon_MacM has comprehensively dismantled your argument and dismissed your post for the worthless drivel that it was. End of.

posted by Joeinpoole [308 posts]
18th August 2014 - 23:42

22 Likes

Moral of this story is don't ride pissed or just lay off alcohol all together. If indeed he is telling the truth and he didn't dope - what a dipstick. This is what happens when you have a double barrelled name …………….

Airzound

posted by Airzound [489 posts]
19th August 2014 - 1:57

15 Likes

Read this, it might help your understanding

http://cyclingtips.com.au/2014/08/anti-doping-expert-parisotto-explains-...

The 50% haematocrit level has not been applied since the biological passport came in. It was very much a temporary measure as many people (including myself) have a natural haematocrit above 50%.

Tovarishch's picture

posted by Tovarishch [49 posts]
19th August 2014 - 7:07

17 Likes

That reply didn't work - it was for Jimmy Ray Will

Tovarishch's picture

posted by Tovarishch [49 posts]
19th August 2014 - 7:24

13 Likes

Aapje wrote:

If someone is caught standing over a dead body with the murder weapon in his hand, do you complain that he is 'presumed guilty'?

Regardless of your snippy response to it, Simon's post summed up my thoughts perfectly.

posted by dp24 [195 posts]
19th August 2014 - 7:56

16 Likes

notfastenough wrote:
Back in my partying days, I've drank enough on Friday night to nurse a hangover for the entire weekend. .....

Yes, but did you decide that you were too ill to drink any water for 32 hours afterwards? Whenever I've been on the bevvy I have drunk gallons of water.

His story sounds extremely implausible to me, and that ignores the part of the decision that says that the dehydration hypothesis still probably doesn't explain the test result!

posted by Chris James [214 posts]
19th August 2014 - 8:16

14 Likes

Chris James wrote:
notfastenough wrote:
Back in my partying days, I've drank enough on Friday night to nurse a hangover for the entire weekend. .....

Yes, but did you decide that you were too ill to drink any water for 32 hours afterwards? Whenever I've been on the bevvy I have drunk gallons of water.

His story sounds extremely implausible to me, and that ignores the part of the decision that says that the dehydration hypothesis still probably doesn't explain the test result!

I certainly didn't, and I'm inclined to agree with both you and Gordy748 in that respect. The following day usually consisted of as much food and fluids as I could cram in. Would you still be on your feet if you abstained from fluids for that long? Presumably when he travelled to the Worlds he didn't do so on a stretcher!

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3469 posts]
19th August 2014 - 9:16

13 Likes

Flying Scot wrote:
He has gone up in my estimation, an extra star if he had a kebab.

What about a fight?

posted by sponican [70 posts]
19th August 2014 - 12:08

11 Likes

I take issue with this piece. I am not a mammoth bender.

posted by bendertherobot [381 posts]
19th August 2014 - 12:09

13 Likes

33 units. Interesting approach to carb loading.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [389 posts]
19th August 2014 - 15:14

12 Likes

Tovarishch wrote:

When he popped back into the scene I just took one look at the way he was riding and I knew 100% that he was loaded up to the eyeballs. He had basically been off the bike for five years and had a reputation for bouncing off the walls of the nightclubs during that time.

The Secret Pro

I'm not sure whose version of events that supports.

Is it me or has that SP post been removed from Cyclingtips? Clearly TSP talks about different things in a single post, but I wonder why...

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3469 posts]
19th August 2014 - 15:18

12 Likes

notfastenough wrote:
Is it me or has that SP post been removed from Cyclingtips? Clearly TSP talks about different things in a single post, but I wonder why...

No-it isn't you- it seems to be have been removed- wonder if it was due to the JTL stuff or the quote about Froome "going after blood" in the Vuelta which could be open to all sorts of interpretations.

Otis Bragg's picture

posted by Otis Bragg [130 posts]
19th August 2014 - 15:37

7 Likes

I think the whole problem could have been avoided had he finished the night off with a kebab and a fight

posted by mtbmonkey [6 posts]
19th August 2014 - 18:50

11 Likes

Otis Bragg wrote:
notfastenough wrote:
Is it me or has that SP post been removed from Cyclingtips? Clearly TSP talks about different things in a single post, but I wonder why...

No-it isn't you- it seems to be have been removed- wonder if it was due to the JTL stuff or the quote about Froome "going after blood" in the Vuelta which could be open to all sorts of interpretations.

Well now you're just teasing, I haven't read it! Google's content cache couldn't seem to provide it either.

Edit: got it, I don't think google likes the old browser version my work laptop...

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3469 posts]
19th August 2014 - 21:48

4 Likes

Face it people JTL's reasoned argument is about as plausible as OJs 'gloves don't fit' and Oscar Pistorius screams like a girl (but can't do it in court) excuses. He and his advocate have shoe horned an excuse to fit the facts. I'm not saying he didn't have a drink, but anytime that results in world class blood values you have to ask was it the drink or something else....

Basically the experts were professional enough not to say what a complete lying bastard he is, politely debunked the theory. But you don't have to give it credence because JTL says it's true.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
19th August 2014 - 22:07

7 Likes

Colin Peyresourde wrote:
Face it people JTL's reasoned argument is about as plausible as OJs 'gloves don't fit' and Oscar Pistorius screams like a girl (but can't do it in court) excuses. He and his advocate have shoe horned an excuse to fit the facts. I'm not saying he didn't have a drink, but anytime that results in world class blood values you have to ask was it the drink or something else....

Basically the experts were professional enough not to say what a complete lying bastard he is, politely debunked the theory. But you don't have to give it credence because JTL says it's true.

Agreed. To be honest the fact that he came up with such a piss-poor (if you'll pardon the pun) and laughably implausible excuse of an 'excuse' is actually embarrassing. If that's the best he could come up with then he should have just manned-up and told it how it was. If he'd have fessed-up and co-operated with the authorities he would probably have had a more lenient punishment.

posted by Joeinpoole [308 posts]
19th August 2014 - 22:29

3 Likes

Never mind the doping... what's a pro athlete doing drinking that mutch???? Also, seem to remember him criticising Lance Armstrong on the Cycling Show a year or two ago!

posted by spxxky [5 posts]
20th August 2014 - 14:40

0 Likes

Was he criticising LA for getting absolutely rat-arsed while out 'celebrating' with his missus?

I've always found alcohol to be a performance unenhancer. In so many ways Sad

posted by truffy [526 posts]
20th August 2014 - 14:46

0 Likes

spxxky wrote:
Never mind the doping... what's a pro athlete doing drinking that mutch???? Also, seem to remember him criticising Lance Armstrong on the Cycling Show a year or two ago!

Blimey you're a hard nut. My experience working with a lot of elite athletes over the years is that they live like monks for the most part but when they let loose they really put their backs into it. Plus I think he's exaggerating to make the bender sound more like something that would bugger him up enough to fail a dope test.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [745 posts]
20th August 2014 - 15:00

0 Likes

I thought it was routine for in competition samples to be tested for EPO, but JTLs samples when he was in the leader's jersey at the ToB in 2012 were not. That is quite incredible; is it because the assumption is that riders are not stupid enough to macro-dose, and micro-dosing can not be detected?
In general these days, is EPO then not tested for in every sample taken?

posted by Metjas [312 posts]
20th August 2014 - 20:13

0 Likes

I have a feeling it comes down to expense and possibly how easy it is to evade....12 hours and it is pretty much out of your system.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
25th August 2014 - 20:01

0 Likes