CYCLING figures and friends have leaped to the support of Jon Tiernan-Locke after it was the revealed that the South Devon pro has been asked to explain differences in his blood levels over the past 12 months.
The sport’s ruling body (UCI) claims that Locke’s blood figures at the end of last year, when his Tour of Britain victory capped a stellar international season for UK team Endura Racing, are different from those on his current biological passport for Team Sky Procycling.
Ironically, former Mid-Devon CC/Colin Lewis Cycles star Locke has had a first season to forget for Sky, failing to shine and citing exhaustion after trying to adjust to Sky’s training regime.
Brian Smith, Locke’s former general manager at Endura, said: “I don’t think he (Locke) should have anything to worry about.
“I can put my hand up and say 100 per cent that I don’t think he was doping at Endura Racing. I would definitely vouch for Jon.”
Locke’s close friend Simon Aske runs Paignton’s Colin Lewis Cycles shop, where Locke worked during his early days as a part-time pro, and has remained in touch with the rider, especially in recent weeks.
“I am more than 100 per cent certain that Jon is clean, and it disgusts me about some of the people out there even questioning him,” said Aske, who raced for many years as an amateur and has regularly accompanied Locke on training rides.
“When he won all those big races last year, I wasn’t the least surprised, because I and a lot of other people knew he was capable of doing it.
“We all know that Jon has had problems at Sky this year, but I am sure that he will come back fighting and show everyone. He’s a real fighter, and he’ll let his legs do the talking.”
Smith added that Locke, who has made no comment so far, had been tested by ProTour teams Garmin and Team Sky after training with them towards the end of last season, and everything was clear.
Smith revealed that Locke had actually asked to be given a biological passport last year, but the UCI had turned him down because he wasn’t with a ProTour team.
“Jon wanted it because he was annoyed with all the rumours,” said Smith.
“As far as I’m concerned, Jonathan is the real deal. Sky, Garmin and Endura all thought there were no irregularities with him.”
Locke, who had three years out of the sport (2005-2008) after suffering from the debilitating Epstein-Barr virus, withdrew from Sunday’s World Road Race Championships in Tuscany, citing poor form, but he had already received the UCI’s letter.
Despite fielding a team to support Tour de France winner Chris Froome, not one of the eight British riders even finished Sunday’s race.
Locke, who has never tested positive for any illegal substance, has three weeks to respond to the UCI, who will then decide whether to take the matter any further.