Tiernan-Locke probe strengthens Cookson testing stance

 
Frank Dalleres
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WORLD cycling’s top official has reiterated calls for anti-doping to be implemented independently of governing body the UCI after English rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke withdrew from racing to clear his name.

Tiernan-Locke, who earned a prestigious move to Team Sky by winning the Tour of Britain last year, is preparing a response after being informed of possible discrepancies in his biological passport data.

The 28-year-old had been set to represent Britain in yesterday’s men’s elite race at the Road World Championships in Florence but pulled out last week, blaming lack of form. It emerged yesterday, however, that heightened scrutiny of his blood values was behind the withdrawal.

Brian Cookson, the British Cycling chief who on Friday was elected president of the UCI, criticised the leak but said Tiernan-Locke’s case justified his efforts to reform anti-doping efforts.

“I think this absolutely underlines why anti-doping has to be independent from the UCI,” Cookson said.

“I certainly won’t be interfering in this process at all. I wouldn’t have done when I was British Cycling president and I won’t now I’m UCI president.

“I am concerned that it has leaked 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.”

Team Sky confirmed Tiernan-Locke was preparing a response to the UCI questions and said the data in question related to his performances before joining the outfit.

“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,” they added in a statement.

British Cycling said it would not divulge details as Tiernan-Locke deserved the “chance to explain privately and without prejudice”. It added: “It is not our policy to discuss individual cases until they are concluded and all appeals heard. Until then, information is considered personal and confidential and its release is absolutely at the discretion of the athlete.”

Devonian Tiernan-Locke moved to Team Sky, home of Tour de France winners Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, from small British squad Endura Racing late in 2012, after becoming the first home Tour of Britain winner since 1993. Wiggins repeated his feat earlier this month.

FACTFILE
■ Jonathan Tiernan-Locke was born in Plymouth on 26 December 1984 and quickly rose through the amateur ranks when he started racing, aged 18

■ A stint in France with two amateur teams was curtailed when, aged 20, he fell ill with Epstein-Barr virus, which can cause glandular fever and left him so drained he gave up racing

■ He started university but by 2008 was competing again, and joined pro team Plowman Craven the next year

■ Riding for Rapha Condor Sharp he finished fifth in the 2011 Tour of Britain, and won the title for Endura Racing 12 months later, earning a move to Team Sky