His current team manager Sir Dave Brailsford and former boss Brian Smith have defended Jonathan Tiernan-Locke against suspicions of doping arising from the UCI questioning his blood passport values.
Tiernan-Locke has been asked by the UCI to explain possible discrepancies in his blood values between the latter part of 2012 and beginning of 2013.
Sir Dave Brailsford told Sky News that it was possible there was an innocent explanation for any discrepancy.
"He hasn’t failed anything yet or there’s nothing where you would say absolutely categorically, ‘This is something which needs to be addressed’,” said Brailsford
"It appears there’s an anomaly which needs to be looked at and explained. This isn’t the first time that this has occurred. We’ve got to allow them to carry on with the process, get both sides of their appropriate roles done, try to establish the truth – which is the important thing. Once we have the truth, we can all deal with that and go from there."
Before signing with Sky, Tiernan-Locke had a remarkable season with the Endura team, winning the Tour du Haut Var, including winning a stage, and the Tour Mediterranéen, where he took two stages, and going on later in the year to win the Tour of Britain.
“I can’t explain any of the irregularities but I would definitely vouch 100 per cent for John,” Brian Smith, who was Endura's general manager, told Cyclingnews.com's Daniel Benson.
“For me, I don’t know how he’s going to explain this to the UCI but I don’t think he should have anything to worry about. I can put my hand up though and say 100 per cent that I don’t think he was doping at Endura Racing. There was no suspicion, no nothing.”
Smith said that he had sought further testing and a place on a biological passport system for Tiernan-Locke, but the response from the UCI was “a resounding no”.
As first-tier teams such as Garmin and Sky showed interest in Tiernan-Locke, he was tested by Garmin and attended a Sky team camp.
Smith said: “[Garmin team manger] Jonathan Vaughters got in contact and said there were no abnormalities in John’s test and that they’d still like to progress with a possible chat of taking him on. Then Sky approached him and took him to a training camp in Tenerife at the start of May. I am not sure what testing Sky did or when [they] started.
“As far as I’m concerned Sky showed all due diligence in looking after him. I think I even sent the results from Jonathan Vaughters’ tests to them. They’ve seen all the data. As far as I’m concerned Jonathan is the real deal. Sky, Garmin and Endura all thought there were no irregularities with Jonathan.”
Tiernan-Locke has three weeks from the date he received the UCI’s letter requesting an explanation of his blood values 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.
Tiernan-Locke was rostered to ride for the British team at the world road race championships over the weekend, but pulled out citing lack of form before new of the request from the UCI broke. The Independent's Robin Scott-Elliott caught up with Team GB riders Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas before yesterday’s race.
“It’s a shock for all of us,” said Froome. Thomas said: “It’s a massive surprise.”
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.