Team Sky's Jonathan Tiernan-Locke asked to explain blood values by UCI

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

by Simon_MacMichael   September 29, 2013  

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke GCN YouTube still

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On Thursday, Tiernan-Locke was withdrawn from the Great Britain squad for today’s world championship road race in Tuscany, with Team Sky colleague Luke Rowe replacing him.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this morning, however, Team Sky confirmed that the 28-year-old from Devon is under investigation and that “he has withdrawn from racing whilst his response to the UCI is prepared then considered by the UCI.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.

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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.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [971 posts]
29th September 2013 - 14:28

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Nicely put Colin P, +1 from me.

posted by fatty [62 posts]
29th September 2013 - 15:27

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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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posted by bikemadjo [33 posts]
29th September 2013 - 17:14

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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 Wink

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posted by Gkam84 [8128 posts]
29th September 2013 - 17:23

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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 Wink

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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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7467 posts]
29th September 2013 - 17:37

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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?

Ride For Precious Lives - Annual Cornwall to Bristol charity ride.

posted by graphite [55 posts]
29th September 2013 - 18:15

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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.

posted by kitkat [181 posts]
29th September 2013 - 19:15

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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!

posted by edster99 [118 posts]
29th September 2013 - 19:25

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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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posted by theclaw [75 posts]
29th September 2013 - 20:18

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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!!)

posted by Flying Heron [24 posts]
29th September 2013 - 20:28

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leaving present from McQuaid......

posted by chrisb87 [54 posts]
29th September 2013 - 20:33

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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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posted by ragtimecyclist [115 posts]
29th September 2013 - 20:40

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Agreed lets await the verdict before running down the same dead end alleys.

posted by Flying Heron [24 posts]
29th September 2013 - 20:43

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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

posted by CyclingDan [39 posts]
29th September 2013 - 21:39

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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.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [971 posts]
29th September 2013 - 21:52

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Come on now, Brits don't dope. Only lazy foreigners dope.

posted by daddyELVIS [216 posts]
29th September 2013 - 23:25

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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.

Asolare

posted by Goldfever4 [163 posts]
29th September 2013 - 23:59

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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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posted by ilderracer [12 posts]
30th September 2013 - 9:29

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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....

posted by zachthackray@mac.com [1 posts]
30th September 2013 - 9:52

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zachthackray@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.

posted by Chuck [289 posts]
30th September 2013 - 10:08

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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.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [971 posts]
30th September 2013 - 11:27

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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 Nerd 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. Crying

If helmets had never been invented would you never ride a bike ? Discuss....

posted by 11speedaddict [50 posts]
30th September 2013 - 11:54

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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.

posted by Super Domestique [1498 posts]
30th September 2013 - 12:12

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Super Domestique wrote:

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.

Why do you have to be a Team Sky basher to read it that way? It seems to me a matter of semantics, but the evidence (i.e. no wins, poor season, good season before going to Sky) would suggest that the Endura bloods are not correct. BUT, actually the release says very little towards this one way or the other - there's just a discrepancy. People are claiming not to judging already are.

At the end of the day, if JTL is found to have suspicious values which cannot be explained then Sky is the team that pays, and they lose a rider. JTL will also suffer.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [971 posts]
30th September 2013 - 14:07

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Well here is Team Sky's take:

http://www.teamsky.com/article/0,27290,17545_8947725,00.html

IMHO only Team Sky bashers will suggest that it's the values at Sky that should be called into question.

How would a markedly improved value at Sky match with a poor season?

posted by Super Domestique [1498 posts]
30th September 2013 - 14:17

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Super Domestique wrote:
Well here is Team Sky's take:

http://www.teamsky.com/article/0,27290,17545_8947725,00.html

IMHO only Team Sky bashers will suggest that it's the values at Sky that should be called into question.

How would a markedly improved value at Sky match with a poor season?

If there is a discrepancy between the 2 sets of data, then surely both sets of data are under suspicion until an explanation is given and conclusions formed.

If it is found that JTL has doped before joining Sky, then it will be a blow to British cycling and Sky for the following reasons:

1) it will call into question Sky's due process when recruiting riders into their 'zero tolerance' team.
2) it will debunk the myth that doping is a continental problem
3) it will strengthen the hypothesis that to be successful at cycling (and indeed most professional sports) one has to dope
4) it will add fuel to the argument that riders looking for new contracts will do 'what it takes' to be at the best athletic level they can be

If it is found he has doped at Sky - well that would be a disaster of unimaginable proportions.

I hope investigations clear his name, otherwise, yet again the UCI's controls will have plucked another minnow from the pond, whilst the big fish carry on.

posted by daddyELVIS [216 posts]
30th September 2013 - 19:35

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I dont think there is any evidence at all that he "doped" at Sky and to be honest i dont think anyone knows what the discrepancy was.

When you get the 2 biggest anti doping teams testing him and he passes with flying colours then its got to be something very minor but time will tell.

As for affecting British Cycling, i dont think it will cos to be honest he hasn't set the world alight this season for whatever reason.

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]
30th September 2013 - 19:45

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11speedaddict wrote:
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 Nerd 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. Crying

I think that is the daftest thing I've ever read. Given our riders compete with those continental riders, whatever they are on our guys are on.

By the sounds of a lot of people here they are not cynical. They do sound naive, but most seem to want to 'believe'. But I guess that it is easier to bury your head in the sand about doping as it is not something that we as cycling fans can do anything about. So it is easier to believe doping is an isolated business as opposed to a regular and widespread phenomenon. People weirdly believe that drug testing is as comprehensive as a vaccination program. In reality it's haphazard and occasional.

There's another page to discuss the racing, which was frankly disappointing. This page is about suspicious blood testing. Most people seem to want to shut the discussion down rather than reconciling the truths about modern sport.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [971 posts]
30th September 2013 - 20:36

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It's been known, discussed, and then ingnored for a while that tracers could be placed in all manufactured EPO. E.g., anything fat soluble would stay in the body with a half life of days or weeks, as does THC. AMGEN, perhaps the biggest EPO maker, sponsors the Tour of California.

Charlie Horse

posted by ch [82 posts]
1st October 2013 - 10:56

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ch wrote:
It's been known, discussed, and then ingnored for a while that tracers could be placed in all manufactured EPO. E.g., anything fat soluble would stay in the body with a half life of days or weeks, as does THC. AMGEN, perhaps the biggest EPO maker, sponsors the Tour of California.

spot on. I wonder how much money the drug companies actually make from professional sport. They wouldn't want to do anything that reduces income. A bit like illness, don't tackle the root causes, instead test, diagnose, and treat the illness not the cause - with doping, test (not too much and not for everything), catch a few (hopefully small fish), ban for 2 years.

The root cause of doping in sport and especially cycling is a complex matter. It can only be tackle with an open and frank debate with ALL interested and affects parties involved. But that will never happen. Drug testing on it's own, and even a lifetime ban, is not the answer.

posted by daddyELVIS [216 posts]
1st October 2013 - 13:50

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