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UCI said to be willing to grant extension as Team Sky rider prepares explanation

Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has reportedly been given more time by world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, to explain apparent discrepancies in his blood values.

Last month, Team Sky confirmed newspaper reports that the 28-year-old from Devon had been asked to account for differences in his blood values from samples taken in late 2012 and those recorded after his move to Sky for 2013.

Telegraph.co.uk reports that the UCI says it has power to extend the 20-day period, which expires this week, that Tiernan-Locke has to respond to the letter it sent him in late September asking him to explain the differences in the values.

The UCI, which is said to have been in regular contact with Team Sky over the issue, added that it will use its discretion in this specific case if it is asked to do so. The granting of such an extension is not believed to be unusual in such a case.

Tiernan-Locke, who became subject to regular blood testing after his overall victory in the 2012 Tour of Britain, was an Endura Racing rider during the period that is the subject of concern.

However, Endura, the clothing brand that owned and sponsored the team, said in a statement last month that he spent much of the 2012 season training under Sky’s supervision ahead of his eventual move.

Both Sky and Endura have highlighted that the discrepancies in Tiernan-Locke’s blood values may be due to issues such as illness or fatigue, besides doping.

The rider, who had a lacklustre debut season with Sky, has reportedly had problems adapting to the demands of training and racing at WorldTour level. He has also struggled with illness and tiredness this year.

Tiernan-Locke, who spent several years out of the sport in his early twenties as he fought a debilitating virus and focused on his studies, came to the attention of WorldTour teams in early 2012 after victories in two early season French races.

His sudden emergence onto the continental scene through those victories, in the Tour Méditerranéen and Tour du Haut Var, led to French sports daily L’Equipe posing the question: “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 rider, and those close to him such as former team manager at Endura Brian Smith, have strenuously denied claims that his performances might have been artificially enhanced.

Once Tiernan-Locke submits his explanation to the UCI, it will be examined by the same three-person committee that identified the concerns in the first place.

If the committee decides the explanation warrants further examination, the matter will be referred to an 11-member committee of experts, who will decide whether disciplinary action is needed.

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.

9 comments

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James Warrener [1081 posts] 2 years ago
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Got a feeling this one might run and run.

It's got a whiff of nothing clear cut being decided about it for me.

Hope to be wrong.

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earth [275 posts] 2 years ago
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But do the differences indicate possible doping before or after the move to Sky?

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robynjones1982 [15 posts] 2 years ago
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Before. When he was at Endura and winning races his Haemocrat level must have been higher than it has been at Team Sky this season, where he has struggled this year. Good young rider, so hope he is clean.

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notfastenough [3673 posts] 2 years ago
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He's struggled generally this year though - he said the training routines didn't suit him at Sky, and he's also been injured. Both of those would affect his blood values and contrast with his great fitness in 2012.

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Leviathan [1889 posts] 2 years ago
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Makes you wonder what a 'natural' variance in Haemocrit levels is allowed. This was a cheap shot at Froome this summer that he had not developed naturally. I remember some saying that he had not blown up at 23 so it can't be real. In which case, why have races, just have a blood test to find out who would be the best.

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Colin Peyresourde [1695 posts] 2 years ago
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notfastenough wrote:

He's struggled generally this year though - he said the training routines didn't suit him at Sky

Is this before or after he moved from Endura? I think he made these comments after, as a way of excusing his performances/lack of success following the move. I just say this, because it seems odd that he would say this before the move and then move to the team where the routines don't suit him (after having trained with them prior to it). So it seems odd that he has stated this afterwards - it is just an excuse.

What is his injury? Do we know? Or has this been a convenient way of sidelining him due to anomalous blood samples from testing within the team. (You know that testing within a team is probably as much about making sure their riders appear clean than actually being clean).

I sort of wonder how serious this is where they have to give him more time. Either there is something serious amiss, which they feel warrants some deeper research and serious explanation, in which case I can understand giving him time to some extent, or else if it is minor then why give him any additional time at all - an explanation should be evident, unrehearsed and ready-to-hand.

Everything we know about him is 'released' from a PR person so you do have to slice through the bs sometimes. My patience with all of this is pretty thin, and I dislike the fact that people seem to make apologies for him. I am not condemning him, but let us put it this way, the fact that he is in this position (given the sports reputation, and problems testers have) does not make him look very good one bit.

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Colin Peyresourde [1695 posts] 2 years ago
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bikeboy76 wrote:

Makes you wonder what a 'natural' variance in Haemocrit levels is allowed. This was a cheap shot at Froome this summer that he had not developed naturally. I remember some saying that he had not blown up at 23 so it can't be real. In which case, why have races, just have a blood test to find out who would be the best.

Hematocrit is just one piece of the puzzle. How fit and strong you are, your bodies natural ability to adapt, change and recover are all part of these things. VO2/Max is a strong indication.

A lot of recovery and adaptation are covered by steroids boosting the bodies process to heal itself and change to the demands put on it, which is why Armstrong/Hamilton didn't use EPO alone. So you may start a race with a high hematocrit (naturally), but because of the effort you put in to race a three week event you end up depleted because your body cannot sustain that level of output (either the muscle suffer, or hematocrit drops - the stress affects the tissue and the rider should become weaker over this period - I think it odd that all riders are not tested at the beginning and end of a race to mark for a natural fall - Armstrong blood doping would have been picked up a lot earlier).

We are also different from out fellow human beings, being variously taller, shorter, stronger, thinner etc. Hematocrit does not have an equalising effect on this. This is effectively your VO2/Max. If your blood vessels are bigger/wider or more efficient in the tissue you need it in (our bodies do not have uniform sensitivity to hormones) then you will have a natural advantage. This is what Greg Lemond based some of his evidence on. But what we see is riders improving their VO2/Max dramatically when they become pro - the corollary is that they have doped.

That is why riders used to have different hematocrit levels, but they would both be competitive with each other. If the one who has a low hematocrit then gets EPO, he may boost his blood and due to his other advantages out perform his once competitive rival.

The point is that most athletes have usually trained themselves up to their peak by a young age and that very few natural gains from tweaking their regime can happen. But in reality, when they hit pro and drugs get on the menu the performance gains are staggering - so people are right to question Froome's early form compared to his current form.

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Shades [292 posts] 2 years ago
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My wife read this and made the comment, "after Armstrong, will anyone believe the cyclist in these cases?". Having just finished The Secret Race (excellent book) I'm inclined to agree with her.

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Colin Peyresourde [1695 posts] 2 years ago
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Soooooo, how long does it take to explain these things? When are we expecting an update?

By the time this thing happens the Jamaican's might have finally got round to an out of competition test!