Cycling Tour de France 2006 Part 2
Tour de France day #13 Doping scandal
Just a few days ago, only 16% of French sports fans believed that the 2014 Tour de France would get to its grand finale in Paris without a doping scandal. Well, today, as the race crossed the Rhone valley and sped to a sprint finish in Saint-Etienne, won by Alexander Kristoff of Norway, their scepticism proved well founded.
We do now have a scandal, of sorts, albeit not involving a rider in the race or subject to interpretation his team. Ironically, it's a very British scandal. The rider in question even has a double-barrelled name.
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, signed by Team Sky in late 2012, has been banned for two years over anomalies in his biological passport. Which means that the anti-doping authorities have seen enough evidence to believe that the irregularities in his blood were caused artificially. In other words, by doping.
Here's the thing: the anomalies date back to his time racing for his previous sponsor, Endura Racing, throughout 2012 when he popped up and began winning left, right and centre. The 29-year-old Devonian won two big races in the spring of 2012 when racing for Endura the prestigious and tough Tour of the Mediterranean and the Tour du Haut Var.
That success set French tongues wagging but any conspiracy theories were quickly condemned as sheer jealousy by those on this side of the Channel who sprang to his defence. Later that season he went on to win the Tour of Britain, the first rider from the home nation to achieve such success in 20 years. That was when Team Sky swooped to sign him and it was also, soon afterwards, that he was placed under investigation over those anomalies.
As the investigation dragged on there were many who stood up for JTL. Team Sky weren't among them though and this afternoon, when his questioners got a little too dogged about how much detail he really knew of Tiernan-Locke's career, Dave Brailsford, Team Sky's principal, turned his back on the media and took refuge in his team bus.
Ironically, Tiernan-Locke's name was still on the side of Sky's bus as this race began in Yorkshire. Now two weeks later he has been sacked. In fact, all trace of him is probably being removed right now as you read this. He's become another name on the list of those who got caught, exiled and written off.
Life's going to be tough for him, although he may still appeal against the verdict. Even so, it's unlikely that any teams will hire him. Like so many others before him he's now damaged goods: his career in professional cycling is almost certainly over.
Video: Cycling Tour de France 2006 Part 3
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