Team Sky confirms Tiernan Locke withdrawn from competition over biological passport
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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Team Sky confirms Tiernan Locke withdrawn from competition over biological passport

by Shane Stokes at 7:02 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
2012 Tour of Britain winner under scrutiny from the UCI, Cookson says process must run its course

Jon Tiernan LockeJonathan Tiernan Locke’s dramatic improvement last season and subsequent tough year in 2013 are now under question after Team Sky confirmed a Sunday Times story stating that the Briton is under scrutiny from the UCI.

Earlier today the Sunday Times stated that the 28 year old rider had received a letter from the UCI warning him that the blood values from his biological passport had been deemed irregular, giving him three weeks to provide an explanation.

It was stated that the suspect blood values dated back to September of last year, the same month he won the Tour of Britain and thus secured a contract with Team Sky. Tiernan Locke had been racing with the Continental Endura team at the time.

He had stunned the peloton when he won the early season Tour Mediterraneen and Tour du Haut Var. Asked then about his jump in form at 27 years of age, he put it down to harder training and weight loss.

His current team confirmed the news today. “Team Sky has been informed by Jonathan Tiernan-Locke that the UCI has notified him of a potential discrepancy in his biological passport data,” it said in a statement.

“He has withdrawn from racing whilst his response to the UCI is prepared then considered by the UCI.”

Riders’ biological passports track blood values over time and determine what is considered a ‘normal’ range for each individual. As Tiernan Locke was riding at a very high level last year compared to this year, it is possible that the baseline established by his 2012 levels differs from the pattern seen in the current season, although the details of what anomaly the UCI has found will emerge over time.

Sky certainly suggests that if there was an issue, that it related to 2012. “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,” it stated.

“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.”

It said it would add no further details at this point.

Tiernan Locke spoke at length with VeloNation just over a month ago, explaining that his drop in form this year was due to an overtraining effect by following a new, harder training programme and doing tougher races rather than being able to train and race by feel. He said that things began well, then headed downhill.

“I was doing my best power numbers and going well in the winter training camps. I obviously didn’t do much in the off season and had a lot of ground to make up but by the time I regained fitness, I was going really well in January. But after that I kept getting an illness here or some health issue there,” he said in that interview.

“I got to mid July and I was just knackered. I saw my performances going down and down…I was getting progressively more fatigued.”

Asked what he felt was the key to sorting out the issue, he said that he needed to take more time for rest and to get back to working along the lines of 2012.

“I think my physiology responds to the ‘less is more’ school of training. I am in a team with a lot of guys who can time trial and do long climbs and from my experience in cycling, those sort of guys, riders with that physiology, they can take on a high workload in training.

“Whereas myself, I find if I train too much it comes back at me. I have done it in the past, training myself and looking for a bit more…you always think, ‘I am going well now, so if I keep pushing and pushing I should build up,’ but I don’t respond well to that. Past a certain point, I seem to just go downhill and need to rest to come out of it.”

He said that he believed he would be able to turn things around by the end of the season. He was selected to ride on the British team for today’s Elite road race at the world championships, but three days ago stated on Twitter that he would no longer take part.

“Was sorry I had to withdraw from the worlds line up, just don't have the form to help the lads there. Good luck to team GB though!” he wrote.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek, new UCI President Brian Cookson said that he would let the investigation process run its course and determine whether or not this is a doping case. He expressed concerns about the story leaking to the press before a conclusion was reached.

“It’s important that it [the inquiry] is handled properly and with integrity under the processes that are laid down. I certainly won't be interfering in it.

“I am concerned that it's leaked out because I don't think this information should be in the public domain while someone is being questioned. That's not the same at all as them being guilty. Let's see what happens.”

Cookson defeated Pat McQuaid in the UCI elections on Friday. He was formerly part of the board of Tour Racing Ltd, the company which owns Team Sky. Tiernan Locke is managed by McQuaid’s son Andrew.

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