LOCKE, SHOCK AND TWO FLAMING TEQUILAS
In the space of one year and 340 days you could cycle around the world (probably). You could read a selection of the world’s great novels (potentially) or become a billionaire and spew endless drunken tweets about signing Peter Sagan from the prow of your luxury yacht (unlikely, though someone has to be Oleg Tinkov).
Alternatively, you could have spent the time since September 22, 2012, as I have, holed up in your parents’ basement waiting for the denouement of the most fiendishly, soul-destroyingly dull legal minefield since Jarndyce vs Jarndyce.
I exaggerate slightly. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke’s biological passport case has really only been going on for around a year, since he was mysteriously yanked at the last minute from the Great Britain team for the 2013 road World Championships.
His violation dated from almost exactly a year prior to that – though thanks to the complexities of the bio-passport, it took a further 365 days to be flagged up. Not even Charles Dickens himself could have scripted quite such a brutally maudlin journey through the corridors of cycling’s anti-doping system. At least, in the interminably stodgy pages of Bleak House, he had the good grace to let us know vaguely what was going on.
Tiernan-Locke has found himself under suspicion, suspended, sacked by Sky and finally banned for two years by two different organisations – and still no one seems quite sure how or why the whole process has dragged on for so long.
Since finishing 19th at the 2012 World Championships in Maastricht, he has gone from Pip Pirrip with great, sky-high expectations, to Oliver Twist – a cycling orphan searching for solace amid the gruel of a two-year ban.
His end, though, was more Shakespearean comedy than Dickens satire. Tiernan-Locke claimed excessive alcohol consumption followed by the dehydration of a hangover was the reason for the dodgy blood values that saw him pinged with the efficacy of a thrice microwaved ready meal burger.
Tiernan-Locke might as well have had a donkey’s head and claimed that Sir Dave Brailsford’s Titania slipped love potion into his blood sample, such was UK Anti-Doping’s faith in the plausibility of his excuse.
“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,” explained the organisation, sounding a little too like Mr Jaggers dressing down yet another recalcitrant beneficiary.
Just to add to the general spirit of litigious confusion, Tiernan-Locke’s ban dates not from late September 2013 but from January 1 of this year, when he was already under suspension by Team Sky.
Perhaps, as with the affairs of Dickens’s seemingly bottomless Court of Chancery, reading too much into the Tiernan-Locke story is fated to end in dizzying confusion. I think I’ll stick to the equally drawn-out yet infinitely simpler Icelandic revenge saga of Wiggins and Froome from now on…
STAT’S THE WAY, UH HUH, UH HUH
8 – Number of Tour de l’Avenir winners who have also won a Grand Tour: Gimondi, Zoetemelk, LeMond, Indurain, Fignon, Casero, Menchov & Quintana.
Ahead of MTN-Qhubeka’s first Grand Tour, this documentary neatly explains the African’s team’s story.
“It was the team manager’s fault.” Deconstructing Robert Millar’s loss at the 1985 Vuelta. (3.00 onwards)
Jack Bauer pops a mean wheelie going up Hautacam in the Tour de France.