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Discrepancies flagged by UCI said to date back to final four months of 2012 with Endura Racing

Team Sky’s Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has been asked by the UCI to explain discrepancies in his biological passport data.

According to The Sunday Times [£], the apparent irregularities cover the final four months of the 2012 season, when he was riding for Endura Racing, a period in which he won the overall at the Tour of Britain.

On Thursday, Tiernan-Locke was withdrawn from the Great Britain squad for today’s world championship road race in Tuscany, with Team Sky colleague Luke Rowe replacing him.

No reasons were given for the change to the line-up by British Cycling.

In a statement issued this morning, however, Team Sky confirmed that the 28-year-old from Devon is under investigation and that “he has withdrawn from racing whilst his response to the UCI is prepared then considered by the UCI.

The team added: "We have no doubts over his performance, behaviour or tests at Team Sky and understand any anomaly is in readings taken before he joined the team.

"Team Sky has tried to respect what should be a confidential process, allowing the rider to explain in private, without prejudice, and the anti-doping authorities to do their valuable job.

"At this stage in the ongoing process we will not add any further detail."

This time last year, Tiernan-Locke went into the world championship as Great Britain’s protected rider, and along with riders including Spain’s Alberto Contador was a protagonist in the break that formed in the latter part of the race.

He had come to the attention of the sport’s top teams at the start of 2012 when he took the overall victory in early season French races the Tour du Haut Var, including winning one stage, and the Tour Mediterranéen, where he took two stages.

Tiernan-Locke had shown promise early in his career before putting his racing on hold for three years as he recovered from a debilitating virus and concentrated on his studies.

But his success saw questions raised about the performances of a cyclist riding for a third tier team; prior to its merger with NetApp at the end of 2012, Scotland-based Endura Racing was registered at UCI Continental level.

French sports daily L’Equipe wrote at the time: “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.”

According to The Sunday Times, Tiernan-Locke, who has not so far got back into the form that attracted him to Sky in the first place, began to undergo regular blood tests at the time he won the Tour of Britain.

It says that while the blood values recorded in the final four months of 2012 were not in themselves suspicious, when combined with those registered after he joined Team Sky, they are sufficient to warrant further investigation.

The rider has three weeks from the date he received the UCI’s letter to respond to its concerns, and his explanation will be scrutinised by the same three-person committee that initially flagged the concerns.

Should they decide further action is required, the issue will be passed to an 11-member committee comprising experts who will determine whether disciplinary action is required.

The Sunday Times reports that Tiernan-Locke is the first current Sky rider to have been involved in an anti-doping investigation.

However, the home of the Italian rider Morris Possoni, who rode for the British WorldTour outfit in 2010 and 2011, was raided by Italian police investigating alleged links to banned doctor Michele Ferrari in April 2011.

Last year, Team Sky came under heavy criticism of its employment on a part-time basis of Belgian doctor Geert Leinders, and it subsequently terminated its involvement with him.

Shortly after announcing his retirement last year, former Sky rider Michael Barry was revealed to be one of the witnesses who testified against Lance Armstrong and others as part of the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation.

The fallout from that inquiry also resulted in race coach Bobby Julich and sports director Stephen De Jongh leave Sky after admitting to having doped during their racing careers.

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.

37 comments

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Karbon Kev [690 posts] 4 years ago
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and ... here it starts ....

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GREGJONES [296 posts] 4 years ago
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At least people are being investigated now, a good thing... in a way.

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Leviathan [2776 posts] 4 years ago
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I haven't really heard anything about him this year at Sky, he has been in the nicest sense an also-ran. So this doesn't seem like a Sky issue, but all we will hear is Sky-sky-sky.

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FMOAB [289 posts] 4 years ago
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If I understand correctly, it's the difference that is notable, not either set of results in itself. I hope he has a good explanation, but does this not reinforce that Sky are clean?

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Jonny_Trousers [278 posts] 4 years ago
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FMOAB wrote:

but does this not reinforce that Sky are clean?

That's exactly what I thought while reading the article.

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chiv30 [987 posts] 4 years ago
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This does explain his complete lack of form which I voiced back in the early part of the year on the forums ....  24

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sunnythemurray [8 posts] 4 years ago
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If anything this does reinforce sky's clean policy? The suspicion is with the difference between his endura samples and the sky ones, meaning he hit clean when with sky?

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Colin Peyresourde [1819 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm not going to hammer Tiernan-Locke or team Sky here. It certainly doesn't look good for him, and his victory in the Tour of Britain last year just seemed very odd.

What I guess gets me is that people think that drugs in sport is a rarity, that it is the preserve of the winners. What is likely true is that it is prevalent at all levels (we know of amateurs, veterans, women and pros have all been caught taking EPO).

Is it also more likely to be true that those that win are more likely to take drugs. If the drugs didn't guarantee you more successful results they would not bother. If you put that in context of Sky and Tiernan-Locke it does not look good.

You must also understand how difficult it is to catch the drug cheats. The blood passport is an opportunity to note spikes which cheaters may use. It maybe that hardly anyone is cheating, or that a lot of people are cheating. But given the competitive nature of leading sports men, the scale of what we already know, and the ease of which they can get away with things and also the rewards for success which means that drugs checks as they stand pose very little deterrent.

You can presume innocence on a grand scale. But it rather feels like the cookie jar continually gets raided and there are few questions asked of those with crumbs on their faces.

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fatty [77 posts] 4 years ago
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Nicely put Colin P, +1 from me.

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bikemadjo [72 posts] 4 years ago
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Innocent until proven guilty guys, the difference maybe down to a set training regime with sky not working (which i actually know, seeing as he is a family friend) is what has hampered him this year as to a stellar 2012.

The training he was following with SKY was not working for him this year and maybe just maybe last years did, where he rode to what his body has telling him.

you should all be ashamed, implying that he is guilty, when you don't know the facts. You wait, he will be proved innocent faster than you guys can get down from your stupidly high horses.

I still believe in you Jonathan, don't listen to these couch potato commentators.

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Gkam84 [9108 posts] 4 years ago
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Everyone is talking Bio passports on the net, It was pointed out by Ant McCrossan this morning, at Endura level, they didn't have bio passports  3

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Simon_MacMichael [2502 posts] 4 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

Everyone is talking Bio passports on the net, It was pointed out by Ant McCrossan this morning, at Endura level, they didn't have bio passports  3

No they didn't, but it was his bio passport details logged after he joined Team Sky that, when compared with the values from the blood samples taken while at Endura (through routine and/or out-of-competition testing) that have produced the apparent irregularities.

As it says in the article, it is not believed the samples taken at Endura were in and of themselves suspicious; but when compared with those taken at Sky under the bio passport, it seems there is an irregularity the UCI would like explained.

So even if the values being scrutinised pre-date his being subject to the bio passport, it's still a bio passport-related case.

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graphite [67 posts] 4 years ago
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Frankly I don't think it does anyone any favours to release this sort of info before the rider involved has had a chance to put their side of the story to the UCI/doping authorities. Just seems that many people assume guilt straight away and even if proven innocent there's always a bit of 'no smoke without fire' that won't go away.

I'd hate to think JTL is guilty but if he is, he is. However lets cut the guy some slack and wait for the UCI to do their thing rather than brand him guilty.

Just my 2p worth!

Out of interest how many false positives are there in drug testing, and how careful do you actually have to be with what you put in your body?

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kitkat [471 posts] 4 years ago
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Agree with graphite here. It's a situation where people are thrust into the spotlight without the facts being confirmed. 'we think we've found something, we want to know more now here's an open letter'.

I hope he isn't guilty, that it is explained by investigation. You would think this is the sort of thing Sky would want to monitor themselves. 6 or 12 month biological passport data prior to joining and then tracking their current values against the old ones.

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edster99 [338 posts] 4 years ago
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I've no axe to grind either way. Lets see what happens. If the training regime wasn't working for him, it could/would fit with the changes to his blood values. Give the guy a fair chance!

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theclaw [73 posts] 4 years ago
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Crikey there is a lot of ignorance here. Let the investigations take their course. It's a fantastic thing that the sport is now in a situation where riders are asked to explain anomalies like this. Wegelius was also asked to explain anomalies in his blood values several years ago. Very occasionally there is a bona fide explanation. If he's guilty he has a lot to answer for. But if he's innocent, will everybody that has buried him come out to say "I was a judgemental and ill-informed knob"? No, they won't. So just hold your horses for the moment.

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Flying Heron [54 posts] 4 years ago
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The problem is, we all have had so many heart breaks we have become very cynical. I'm right behind JTL until proven otherwise. There's only so much disappointment you can take in our sport, let's get behind a new era! (was going to say positive outcome until I realised my error!!)

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chrisb87 [70 posts] 4 years ago
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leaving present from McQuaid......

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ragtimecyclist [160 posts] 4 years ago
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Some may say 'no smoke without without fire' but, seriously, even in a cynical world it has to be innocent until proven guilty - what a shame this has all been leaked. It can't be good for cycling to allow people to come to their own conclusions on the basis of little or no fact- the process has to be trusted to see it's course. If Tiernan-Locke is innocent, he doesn't deserve his reputation to be tainted, especially in this day and age when stories are no longer 'tomorrows chip paper'.

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Flying Heron [54 posts] 4 years ago
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Agreed lets await the verdict before running down the same dead end alleys.

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CyclingDan [39 posts] 4 years ago
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My word if he is found guilty it will really damage Sky's reputation about DB saying "we're clean" If he's doing it it'll be the start of another investigation of Sky's riders and the past victories

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Colin Peyresourde [1819 posts] 4 years ago
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Actually no one has accused Tiernan-Locke of being guilty. It is interesting that everyone is giving him due legal process (or at least the opportunity to explain himself) before condemning him.

However, a couple of points I didn't make were that in many cases of doping, the doper has not been caught by a doping test, they get caught because someone has shopped them to the authorities (Balco, Armstrong, Fuentes, Festina). Most deny they ever doped, until it is undeniable. In fact, it seems that you have to be a bit stupid or unlucky to get caught.

Back in the day people yelled 'but Armstrong never failed a test!' which was not entirely true, but there was enough 'doubt' to mean that the mud never stuck, and it is this margin which many a cheat lives off because they know that if they brazen it out, and there is no hard proof they will walk away. The blood passport is actually a cheap means of the UCI finding the cheaters - it doesn't stop cheating, and it doesn't prove cheating, it just makes it harder to cheat. In this case, the request to explain may only lead to a suspension, because he will not have been found guilty of cheating, but the likelihood is that cheating has gone on which testing can not easily or otherwise detect.

To this extent I would be sceptical of most athletes, and particularly ones there are questions asked of. Due process is given by the UCI, and the riders have the opportunity to defend themselves via this (and the CAS). I wouldn't presume any athlete clean, nor innocent. But I would give them the chance to hang themselves with the evidence when found.

Does this stop me enjoying the sport? A little, but not entirely. Do I want a clean sport? Yes, I do. Do we have clean sport? Probably not. Can we get clean sport? Not easily, and definitely not with current anti-doping structures.

Those of you whom Armstrong called the believers, keep believing. But remember that it was those that didn't that found him out.

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daddyELVIS [654 posts] 4 years ago
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Come on now, Brits don't dope. Only lazy foreigners dope.

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Goldfever4 [325 posts] 4 years ago
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CyclingDan wrote:

My word if he is found guilty it will really damage Sky's reputation about DB saying "we're clean" If he's doing it it'll be the start of another investigation of Sky's riders and the past victories

Hardly. As far as I understand it, the stats indicate that if there was doping it was before he joined Sky, and the stats being investigated suggest he stopped before/when he joined Sky.

If anything it validates the one-strike attitude at Sky.

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ilderracer [14 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm sure I read an interview with him a few months ago where he was saying he's felt really tired for most of the season. Although I'm not defending him, far from it, that could explain the blood values. He might have been simply over-training.

Alternatively, he could have been a cheat beforehand!

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zachthackray@mac.com [1 post] 4 years ago
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Something smells funny. A new (GB) UCI president, a return of form for Wiggo. This and then a report comes out from the (Murdoch owned) times about the new GB rider.

Mmmmm....

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Chuck [588 posts] 4 years ago
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zachthackray [at] mac.com wrote:

Something smells funny. A new (GB) UCI president, a return of form for Wiggo. This and then a report comes out from the (Murdoch owned) times about the new GB rider.

Mmmmm....

So...? Don't get it.

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Colin Peyresourde [1819 posts] 4 years ago
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Goldfever4 wrote:
CyclingDan wrote:

My word if he is found guilty it will really damage Sky's reputation about DB saying "we're clean" If he's doing it it'll be the start of another investigation of Sky's riders and the past victories

Hardly. As far as I understand it, the stats indicate that if there was doping it was before he joined Sky, and the stats being investigated suggest he stopped before/when he joined Sky.

If anything it validates the one-strike attitude at Sky.

Actually it doesn't necessarily suggest that at all (although the bias of the report tends to suggest that). What it says is that there is a discrepancy between the Endura bloods and the Sky bloods. It says the Sky bloods appear consistent. But all that is saying is that there was some change between cycling for the two teams. Could be that they markedly improved or that they markedly declined in some value. JTL now has to explain why.

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11speedaddict [75 posts] 4 years ago
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Brits dont dope - david millar was from Hong Kong.
We all want to go on about doping. its boring and none of us are experts  26 we just think we know.
Currently JTL is guilty of absolutely nothing.
He may be found to be guilty but i doubt it.
WE ARE SUCH CYNICS
Care to discuss the actual racing from the weekend, nah what would be the point of that, cycle racing is all about drugs.  20

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Super Domestique [1619 posts] 4 years ago
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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
Goldfever4 wrote:
CyclingDan wrote:

My word if he is found guilty it will really damage Sky's reputation about DB saying "we're clean" If he's doing it it'll be the start of another investigation of Sky's riders and the past victories

Hardly. As far as I understand it, the stats indicate that if there was doping it was before he joined Sky, and the stats being investigated suggest he stopped before/when he joined Sky.

If anything it validates the one-strike attitude at Sky.

Actually it doesn't necessarily suggest that at all (although the bias of the report tends to suggest that). What it says is that there is a discrepancy between the Endura bloods and the Sky bloods. It says the Sky bloods appear consistent. But all that is saying is that there was some change between cycling for the two teams. Could be that they markedly improved or that they markedly declined in some value. JTL now has to explain why.

That might be the case but given the riders form at the two teams it would appear only the Team Sky bashers would read it that way.

That said I hope there is a logical explanation and that JTL isn't tarnished by rumour if he is found innocent.

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