Team Sky cyclist Jonathan Tiernan-Locke withdrew from racing after the sport’s ruling body notified him of potential discrepancies in his “biological passport.”
Tiernan-Locke, 28, the 2012 Tour of Britain champion, had already pulled out of today’s World Championships road race in Florence, Italy, citing lack of form. Blood and urine data are recorded in riders’ biological passports to aid the fight against performance-enhancing drugs.
Team Sky, whose riders Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome won the Tour de France in 2012 and 2013, said the inquiry by the Union Cycliste Internationale relates to a period before Tiernan-Locke joined the team in January.
“Team Sky has been informed by Jonathan Tiernan-Locke that the UCI has notified him of a potential discrepancy in his biological passport data,” the team said in a statement. “He has withdrawn from racing whilst his response to the UCI is prepared, then considered by the UCI.”
The team added that it had “no doubts over his performance, behavior or tests at Team Sky and understand any anomaly is in readings taken before he joined the team.”
Team Sky said the inquiry process should be confidential, enabling the rider to explain in private, without prejudice, and the anti-doping authorities to do “their valuable job.”
“At this stage in the ongoing process we will not add any further detail,” the team said.
Team Sky has adopted a “zero tolerance” policy, refusing to employ anyone who’s been involved in drug misuse.
The team’s statement came in response to a report in today’s Sunday Times, which said variations in Tiernan-Locke’s blood readings are being examined.
The UCI didn’t pick up a telephone call from Bloomberg News seeking comment.
Two days ago, Brian Cookson of the U.K. was elected president of the UCI, ousting incumbent Pat McQuaid, after vowing to clean up the sport’s image following the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. Cookson has led British Cycling since 1997 and has sat on the UCI management committee since 2009.
Asked about Tiernan-Locke today, Cookson told the British Broadcasting Corp.’s Radio 5 Live Sportsweek program that “this absolutely underlines why anti-doping has got to be independent from the UCI and 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.”
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France wins by the UCI last October following a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation that used affidavits by several former teammates to prove he doped.