Tiernan-Locke to retire from racing but not ‘back down’ on Tramadol claim

Published: Friday 17th February 2017 by The News Editor

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Former Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke will tell British Cycling next week what he has already claimed publicly – that he was offered the legal but controversial painkiller Tramadol when riding for Great Britain in 2012.

In an interview with the BBC in October, Tiernan-Locke said the drug was “freely offered around” before the men’s road race at the 2012 world championships. He has also said that to UK Anti-Doping.

The doctor that day was Richard Freeman, who then worked for Team Sky but is now at British Cycling, and Tiernan-Locke’s allegations have been strongly denied.

Cycling’s governing body the UCI and many professional teams have been calling for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to ban the narcotic-like medication, which has been linked with crashes during races, and it has been on WADA’s watch list for five years.

Tiernan-Locke’s claim has subsequently been taken up by UKAD, which announced shortly after the BBC interview it was investigating wider but denied “allegations of wrongdoing” at British Cycling and Team Sky.

The agency questioned Tiernan-Locke, who was given a two-year doping ban in 2014, about the alleged incident over the phone in October and now British Cycling has contacted him to set up its own interview.

Tiernan-Locke’s claim about the British team being offered Tramadol in 2012 has been denied by British Cycling and several of his team-mates that day.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, the 32-year-old said: “I know what I saw and I’m not going to back down, although I’m a bit surprised it’s become such a big deal as (Tramadol) wasn’t banned then and still isn’t.

“I can see that it’s an issue of ethics, though, and I know the doctor has taken some heat. I think with all the recent changes at British Cycling the new regime wants to hear what I’ve got to say.”

The governing body has recently appointed Stephen Park as its new performance director, named Jonathan Browning as its new chairman and is close to announcing a successor to the departed chief executive Ian Drake.

The e-mail Tiernan-Locke received came from British Cycling’s new human resources boss Michael Chivers.

Tiernan-Locke, whose breakthrough season in 2012 saw him win four races including a thrilling victory at the Tour of Britain, was speaking to PA Sport on the day he told his local newspaper, the Exeter Express and Echo, he was retiring as a professional rider.

Having completed his ban in late 2015, he competed in local races and at national level with Saint Piran, a team named after Cornwall’s patron saint that he founded with friends.

“The original plan wasn’t to race last year – I was just going to coach and help some of the younger guys in the national races,” he explained.

“But I ended up riding with them to share some of my experience with them and it was fine, because I still love riding.

“I was doing the races half heartedly and overweight, though. I was so busy with work that I’d miss four or five days of training in a row – I never used to do that but I just lack the motivation now.

“I won a couple of local races but was just rolling around in the top 30 of the national races – it’s a hard sport and you can’t just wing it.”

Tiernan-Locke will continue to stay involved with Saint Piran and he runs a property maintenance company with his brother, as well developing and letting properties of his own.

He is not ruling out ever racing again but admits it is unlikely as “the burning desire” to compete at the top level has gone.

Tiernan-Locke was stripped of his Tour of Britain victory and sacked by Team Sky in 2014 when he was given that two-year ban for anomalies in his blood values going back to 2012.

He has always maintained his innocence, though, saying the problematic sample he provided at the 2012 world championships was a result of being dehydrated from a drinking session with his girlfriend to celebrate being signed by Team Sky.

Tiernan-Locke says he has never appealed against the UK Anti-Doping decision to ban him because of the cost of going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“I have tried hard to put (the ban) behind me but if I ever do think about for long it makes me angry again,” he said.

“I would like to appeal against it and if anybody wants to fund that appeal I’d love to hear from them. But I know that’s not going to happen. I think that’s just life.”

Published: Friday 17th February 2017 by The News Editor

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