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Sky’s Brailsford reacts to Jonathan Tiernan-Locke’s biological passport case

  • By Gregor Brown
  • Published Jul. 17, 2014
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke was handed a two-year ban Thursday for biological passport abnormalities. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File)

SAINT-ÉTIENNE, France (VN) — Sky boss David Brailsford followed Richie Porte’s progress in Thursday’s Tour de France stage in the team car, but was forced to turn his attention to the biological passport case of former rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke.

The U.K. anti-doping panel handed the Brit a two-year ban that afternoon because of testing abnormalities that suggested doping.

“You have to respect the judgement of the process and I don’t think I’m expert enough to be able to question the outcome, really,” Brailsford said after the stage finish in a hot and sticky Saint-Étienne.

Brailsford stopped short of saying that his former rider doped. “I’m just saying there’s no place for cheats, and if you’ve been convicted it’s because, I presume, they think he’s cheated.”

Tiernan-Locke dominated several 2.1- and 2.2-ranked UCI stage races while racing for third-division Endura team in 2012. He won the Tour Méditerranéen, the Tour du Haut-Var, the Tour Alsace, and his home race, the Tour of Britain. Sky, it seemed, had to have the young up-and-comer on its roster.

He had a quiet ride in his first year with a WorldTour team in 2013. The season, and his career, ended abruptly when team Great Britain sent him home from the world championships and news leaked that he was found to have abnormal levels in his biological passport.

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) said that an “analysis of the biological passport of Mr. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke by the Experts Panel has demonstrated an anti-doping rule violation (use of prohibited substances and/or methods).”

It passed it to the U.K. panel, which ruled today. In the meantime, Tiernan-Locke has been quiet.

Brailsford said that he had not spoke with his former cyclist and that he doubts whether he will. He explained that he felt “let down” by the Englishman.

“When somebody knows clearly what your stance is and they disregard and come all the same then, yeah, you do feel let down by them, there’s no denying it,” continued Brailsford. “But we’re pushing in a way to try and create a new phase of the sport.”

Since its introduction at the start of the 2008 season, the biological passport system has caught several cyclists. In June, the UCI reported problems with Roman Kreuziger’s passport and forced him out of competition, including the Tour de France, while the case continues.

In Tiernan-Locke’s case, the abnormalities were linked to his 2012 season with Endura, before he joined team Sky. Following the news Thursday, Sky issued a press release saying that it terminated his two-year contract.

“Our ambition is clear. It is to do it clean and we have done. We’re a British team, we want to win the Tour de France with a clean British rider, which we’ve done. We wanted to create a cycling revolution, which we’ve done,” Brailsford explained.

“A guy’s cheated before he’s got to our team and that process is now concluded and quite clearly there is no place for him on our team.”

The UCI said that Tiernan-Locke is unable to compete until December 31, 2015, and has been stripped of his 2012 Tour of Britain win and 19th place at 2012 world championships, where it said “abnormalities were clearly identified.”

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown

Bikes kept Gregor Brown out of trouble growing up in Oklahoma — BMX, freestyle and then watching Greg LeMond's Tour de France wins on CBS television's weekend highlights shows. The drama of the 1998 Tour, however, truly drew him into the fold. With a growing curiosity in European races and lifestyle, he followed his heart and established camp on Lake Como's shores in 2004. Brown has been following the Giro, the Tour and every major race in Europe since 2006. He will tell you it is about the "race within the race" – punching out the news and running to finish – but he loves a proper dinner, un piatto tipico ed un vino della zona.

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