Ex-Team Sky cyclist Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, sacked after being handed a doping ban, has said that Sir Bradley Wiggins’ use of an anti-allergy medicine under Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) prior to major races “looks suspicious.”
Last month, the Fancy Bears hacking group published a TUE certificate issued to Wiggins that allowed him to be injected with the drug triamcinolone days before the 2012 Tour de France, which he won.
The group, believed to be based in Russia, also published certificates showing that Wiggins had been permitted similar injections of the otherwise banned substance in the run-up the previous year’s edition of that race and prior to the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
While there’s no question the TUEs were issued in accordance with anti-doping rules, and Wiggins and Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford both insist he took the drug for a genuine medical reason – his allergies to pollen and grass – questions have been raised about their timing.
Tiernan-Locke told BBC sports editor Dan Roan that the issue of Wiggins’ TUEs "definitely looks odd."
He went on: "I don't want to insinuate anything, but the timing doesn't look great. You assume if you had a need for such a thing it would be consistent throughout his career, that you'd use it year in year out, so from that point of view it looks suspicious.
"But from the other perspective, we've got a guy who's favourite for the general classification in these big races, so for a team like Sky who are so thorough, they don't want to leave anything to chance so why risk these allergies derailing their best-laid plans, so I understand it."
The Devon rider, aged 31, was sacked by Team Sky in 2014 after he received a two-year ban for biological passport irregularities.
He was also stripped of the 2011 Tour of Britain overall win that led to his being signed by the British WorldTour outfit.
In the week after that victory in the colours of Endura Racing, Tiernan-Locke signed for Team Sky.
He was also named Great Britain’s protected rider for the following weekend’s world championship road race, where he finished 19th, with Wiggins among those riding in support of him.
Lacklustre performances in his debut season at Team Sky were attributed to the rigours of stepping up to training and racing at WorldTour level.
But in September 2013, he was provisionally suspended by the UCI due to suspicious blood passport values relating to the period between his Tour of Britain win and the world championship road race.
Tiernan-Locke insisted that those were due to his being dehydrated after going on a drinking binge in Bristol with his girlfriend to celebrate signing for Team Sky.
In July 2014 he was handed a partially backdated two-year ban, although he continues to insist he was always clean.
The only time Wiggins and Tiernan-Locke raced together at Team Sky was during the Mallorca Cycling Week in February 2013, a series of one-day races typically used by pros to get back into racing after the winter lay-off.
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.