Tuesday 19 August 2014

Tiernan-Locke Ban Upheld

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke’s two-year ban from cycling was upheld after UK Anti-Doping rejected the former Team Sky rider’s claim that irregular blood samples were the result of an alcohol binge in which he drank 33 units of alcohol in six hours.

Tiernan-Locke’s ban was confirmed by UK Anti-Doping on Monday, a month after it was announced by the International Cycling Union. Sky terminated his contract after the UCI’s announcement on July 17.

The 29-year-old was found to have breached anti-doping rules when anomalies were found in his biological passport based on samples taken in September 2012.

He was asked to explain those anomalies at a hearing last month, where he claimed that he had gone on a drinking binge with his girlfriend to celebrate securing a two-year deal with Team Sky.

According to a doctor presenting evidence on behalf of Tiernan-Locke, he consumed around 33 units of alcohol in a period of six hours on the evening of Sept 20, which then resulted in dehydration ahead of the sample being taken on the morning of Sept 22.

The UKAD statement said that “the explanation provided by the rider ... did not sufficiently explain the abnormal values obtained from the sample”.

Tiernan-Locke’s ban, which runs until Dec 31, 2015, was therefore upheld, while he has been stripped of his 2012 Tour of Britain victory and his 19th place at the 2012 Road World Championships.

The Tour of Britain was one of a number of successes Tiernan-Locke enjoyed in 2012 with Endura Racing, leading Sky to offer him a lucrative deal for the next two seasons. He described the deal as “incredible” while giving evidence, saying the period was “by far the most successful few days of my career”.

It was in that mood which he went out to celebrate on the evening of Sept 20, claiming to have drunk most of a bottle of wine he shared with his girlfriend over dinner before moving on to gin and later vodka.

Tiernan-Locke told the hearing that he did not drink often but when he did he tended to binge. He said he had still been hung over when he travelled with the rest of the Great Britain team to the Road World Championships in Maastricht, but did not discuss his condition as he knew it would not go down well with his team-mates. Furthermore, he claimed that he did not drink much water for fear of making himself vomit.

However, while accepting his claim that he had drunk heavily, the panel had “considerable reservations” as to Tiernan-Locke’s explanation of his reading as they did not accept that he could have been suffering from severe dehydration on the eve of a major race in which he went on to finish the best of the British entrants.

“It is inconceivable that a professional rider, selected for the first time to ride for his country at a senior level in the world championships, would not have ensured that by the time he arrived in the team hotel at Maastricht he was fit to race and had ensured that he had taken on sufficient water to deal with any hangover which he was still experiencing,” the written verdict said.

Tiernan-Locke endured a tough 2013 season as he was affected by fatigue after taking part in the likes of Paris-Nice, the Tour of the Basque Country and Tour of Switzerland. He withdrew from the British team on the eve of the 2013 Road World Championships after being notified of the biological passport anomalies by the UCI.

The use of biological passport data to determine doping violations is relatively new, having come into force in 2008, and Tiernan-Locke’s was the first case handled by UKAD.

Graham Arthur, the UKAD director of legal, said: “This is the first athlete biological passport case handled by UK Anti-Doping, handed down under the rules by the UCI. The panel found Jonathan Tiernan-Locke to be in breach of the UCI anti-doping rules and consequently he has been handed a two-year ban preventing him from competing or training in sport.

"The athlete biological passport is a vital tool in the prevention and detection of doping and greatly enhances the integrated approach to anti-doping under which we all operate.”

Brian Cookson, the UCI president, said: “I would like to thank UK Anti-Doping for their work in handling this case and providing the rider with a fair and independent hearing. This case demonstrates how the UCI is working with partners on a global level to combat doping and protect our sport.”