JTL. SKY. WTF.

by crankpunk

yeah, ok, so, um, ah, where’s that bush got to, i wouldn’t mind beating around it a little longer. i tried to stay out of this one because it’s just so… irritating.

JTL, SKY, WTF.

Dr Geert Leinders.

this embarrassing display of ‘i made a mistake’.

(love the journo’s comment to DB, ‘you’re anything but naiive’…)

now, back to JTL, SKY, WTF. a young lad comes along and smokes all before him in a blistering year. yet to claim that he was ‘average’ before then, as i’ve read in places, is misleading. JTL started racing at 18 and went from 4th Cat to 1st within a matter of months. roughly 2 years after that he was in the British U23 team.

he joined the French team CC Étupes for 2005, won the GP de Rocheville and podiumed in all his first ten races.

he then got sick with the Epstein-Barr virus but came back and worked his way back up, joining Rapha-Condor in 2011 where he was 5th in the Tour of Britain and won the KOM. then it was on to Endura for 2012, where he rocked Europe.

then on to Sky and a decent first year, though one made patchy as a result of  illness.

now, either JTL’s been juicing since he was 18 or, more likely, he is talented.

of course, anyone who has a copy of The Recent Troubled History of Cycling sitting on their bookshelf (and that is quite the tome, my bookshelf now sags in the middle) will know that the vast majority of ‘successful’ (rated by win-rate & bank account, not physical health and mental sanity) pro cyclists over the past 20 years have been shown to be on dope. this doesn’t mean i’m saying that JTL is too.

just pointing out the bleeding obvious.

now, for the conspiracy theorists out there, this will be interesting:  he signed with Team Sky at the tail end of 2012 but was training with the British ProTour outfit in early 2012, as confirmed by JTL’s then-manager in this article.

some say his performance at that year’s Tour of Britain would decide whether he got a contract with Sky or not. he didn’t only do quite well, he went on to win the race outright. he’d joined a team that was avowedly merciless in their pursuit of gains – the legal kind, DB told us all many times – but that had on its back-room roster a certain Dr. Geert Leinders, said by Michael Rasmussen to have been supplying Rabobank riders with da juice when he was on that team.

Sky stopped working with Leinders, they state, in October 2012, though he was said to not be part of the staff that oversaw Bradley Wiggins win at the Tour de France that same year. Wiggins of course had an incredible 2012 season, winning just about everything he woke up for.

again i am not into putting two and two together to get anything but 4 BUT there is no point denying that JTL was training for at least a portion of 2012 with a team that had on its roster at that time a doctor who in February 2013 had criminal charges brought against him for supplying and administering banned substances.

so yes, well done Sky management on that score for leaving everyone wondering just WTF is going on, when you hire a guy from a team about which there had already been rumblings and then go on about being 100% clean. in this climate? many in the cycling community say that Sky dope. that is a fact. to them, this is a red flag more red and more flag-like than just about any other red flag around these days.

Leinders
Leinders

for those who believe Sky are clean? they have to look sheepish and kick the dirt, hands in pockets, mumbling ‘well, you know, it’s hard to know these days…’

and THEN Tiernan-Locke returns suspicious readings and has disciplinary proceedings brought against him by the UCI.

“The analysis of the biological passport of Mr Jonathan Tiernan-Locke by the Experts Panel has demonstrated an anti-doping rule violation (use of prohibited substances and/or methods),” the UCI statement read.

“Consequently and in compliance with the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, the UCI has requested his National Federation to initiate disciplinary proceedings.”

sounds to me like he’s screwed. really. i can’t think of many cases that get overturned and in the current environment i would think that Cookson does not want a long drawn out mess on his hands. of course, like any cyclist, i hope always that they are clean, but it does not look good for JTL.

now, on to the fans who leave comments on websites, and to what i can only see as a clear case of racism.

i know i know, eeeek!, right? but if we are to define Anglo-Saxon as a race, and Europeans as another or other races, then this is what we have right now, whipper snapping all over the English cycling media.

definition of racism:

Racism is defined as actions, practices or beliefs, or social or political systems that are based in view that sees the human species to be divided into races with shared traits, abilities, or qualities, such as personality, intellect, morality, or other cultural behavioral characteristics, and especially the belief that races can be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to others, or that members of different races should be treated differently.   Wikipedia

ok, one word, morality. i’ve written about this before but will do so here again, and i’m sure in the future too, cos it keeps happening. the Anglo press used to display an attitude that read like this:

‘The Euros dope but the Anglos? Nope.’

when an Anglo did dope – like Floyd – he was seen as a bad apple, one that was just nestling like the ugly kid in the playground amongst all the good, bright and shiny apples. the Euros though, when they doped? heck, doping was endemic to Italian culture, all Spaniards dope! the Dutch? well they’re almost like us (and generally their English is actually better than many of my fellow countrymen) but yeah, they do it too…

and on it went.

then came Tyler. well, it’s ok, LA tells us he’s nuts. Pat tells us he’s a scumbag. and he was insane, right? like, he’s depressed, right?

and then – KABOOM! – there came LA and his mighty fall. and then Leipheimer. and then Zabriskie. and then Stuey. and then – onandonandonandon.

ok, now let’s look at the article on Road.cc that broke the news that JTL was getting his collar felt by the UCI, or, more specifically, let’s check out the comments.

JoeInPoole wrote:

‘he’s still not guilty until they’ve listened to him and they tell us he’s guilty. I’m tired of people declaring someone’s guilt before the judgement has been made. If it turns out that his previous medical conditions have lead to the anomaly what are you on your fellow barrack room lawyers going to say then? The process is not complete; until then he is I not guilty!’

i’ve no idea if Joe feels the same thing about Euro riders, but this kind of comment represents a thread of feeling conveyed by several other comments on the article.

Crazy Legs wrote:

“I agree that Sky suspending JTL is absolutely standard process and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, what is a bit poor is the way they have publicly distanced themselves from the guy. I say this because they know, they will know if JTL was doping last year or not… Why?because Jon was working nearly exclusively with BC and Sky from around June on-wards.

To say ‘he’s done nothing under our care’ and ‘this dates from before his time with us’ is frankly lying… and leaves a foul taste in my mouth.

Also, I am very surprised that the UCI have gone for this case as the amount of data collected is very small to be able to make such bold statements as he definitely doped… actually to be really specific with the nature of the doping, or blood manipulation they believe he is supposed to have done.

Personally, whether guilty or not, I can’t see how this will stand up to the due diligence of a full appeal case. They have all of 6 months data, taken during a time when the rider is known to have been in poor health.

It just seems strange to take the risk of pushing for a sanction when they could have gathered more data to make a more robust case either way.

My gut feeling is that Jon has been a pawn in a much bigger game… Poor Jon.”

well, the UCI must think it has a case, and is Cookson is targeting JTL and Sky out of some sort of malice as CL seems to suggest, that would be very surprising…

Andy Halls writes:

“What a pity for the sport whatever the outcome. However doping is not limited to cycling remember, I read some (dunno where so don’t ask) that half the pro-tour golfers have been identified with doping.
Keyboard warriors are on form tonight I see.”

yeah, that 0ld chestnut. first of all, who gives a f*ck about golf, and doping in it, or tennis etc, that is not even close to a valid point, and secondly, it’s terms like ‘keyboard warriors’ that are used to dismiss any and every argument that disagrees with the one you personally hold, irrespective of the facts it might contain.

believing that a team or a rider is clean is fine, until something comes along that suggests otherwise. then – as we saw for YEARS with LA, to continue to maintain your original position is nothing short of folly and pretty damn close to stupidity. now is the time to question, moreso than any other.

one last on from Road.cc, from Fukawitribe:

“I see the no idea’s, don’t knows, no abilities and never done anythings see the need to write someones life off before the process is finished. Lets see what happens now rather than being judge and jury, it’s what we’d expect for ourselves so why not for JTL.”

again, no idea how consistent Fukawi is with the Euros, with the Conty’s and the Vino’s, but it is a common thread through these comments, this feeling that JTL deserves a fair chance to explain himself.

then, let’s look at the comments for a similar article that appeared in the French l’Equipe this week…

Quentin3000:

“It’s sad but a bit obvious since the year 2012 he did (Mediterranean tower, GB …) when he came out of nowhere”

PePE11:

“We remember the Med Tour [which JTL won in ’12] … And an unknown rides like a rocket. It is already far too much …”

Glotz:

“What a surprise …”

as you can see, there is a disparity in response between the English and French website’s comments.

why so? well, of course the French have historically been at odds with the ‘roast beefs’, but as far as i can see, the responses on l’Equipe mirror the kind of responses i’ve seen on US, English and Aussie sites when Italians or Spaniard cyclists are in similar positions to JTL.

if i say this might be because JTL is English, road.cc’s readers tend to be British, Sky is British, and that cycling’s popularity in the UK is a relatively new phenomenon and that some cycling fans there are relatively new to the sport, would that be wrong?

the ‘Sky are good’ feel that emanates from the UK comes from that idealised notion that the British are somehow fairer in their doings and their sports than other nations.

true or not, that notion has become idealised. however, we must remember that we cyclists are cyclists first, then English, Dutch, or Japanese. and The Recent History of Cycling tells you that several teams that were at the top of the sport in the past 20 years have been found to be largely on dope (US Postal is the most obvious), and that many, many riders that performed at the top level consistently and/or made substantial jumps in form have been found to have doped.

check the top ten of the Tour for about ooh a decade from the late 90s to see that.

again, these are the facts, and again, i am just stating the bleeding obvious.

now, in regards to that, if any English or any other fan wishes to say ‘hey no way JTL is clean!’ before waiting for the outcome of the case, then your head is in the sand.

all we can say, with any certainty, is i do not know…

but one thing is a necessity – be consistent in your defending or your chastising, whichever it is you do. an Anglo is no more or less likely to dope than anyone else. it must all be judged on a one-by-one basis. after all, that attitude – the Anglos don’t dope – is one that helped LA and his cohorts get away with so much for so long.

18 thoughts on “JTL. SKY. WTF.

    1. As he didnt have a bio passport when they hired him, difficult to say. His values have been stable all through his season with Sky – the suspect values are from some point in the last 4 months of last year when the UCI had just started to build his bio p/p as he was going to be joining Sky and World Tour 1 Jan 2013. And are suspect because they are very out of kilter vs his 2013 basline data.

      1. Sam – then why are Sky stating these values relate to his previous employment? He officially signed to Sky on Oct 4th 2012 (although it was a pretty much a given from before this time). They would have had sight (as per their hiring policy) of all available values as of this date. So, where exactly does this 4 month window to which you refer sit?

  1. What is the book that you refer to in the article, The Recent Troubled History of Cycling, I can’t seem to find it anywhere online?

      1. Sam – i understand & accept everything you say re contracts, but my question still stands – not least of all because 1. JTL was training with Sky in 2012 on several occasions, and 2. Sky have all his data from 2012 (if not earlier) onwards. Another big issue is that the flag was raised by the UCI and not Sky – because, as you correctly point out, the BioP requires several data points to be meaningful – yet, on the face of it at least, it would appear that the data meant something different to the UCI than Sky. I just don’t like the way that this is unfolding at all regardless of whether he is innocent or otherwise….

    1. Reply for Beev: contract of employment with the new team started 1 Jan 2013, not 4 Oct 2012. JTL was contracted to Endura till 31 Dec 2012. Doesnt matter when new contract’s signed – rider’s officially contracted to the new team w/e 1 Jan. Riders changing teams get to go on new team’s training camps etc in the interim as accepted practice but they’re still not officially employed by their new team till start of next season.

      The exact date(s) of the ‘suspect’ tests aren’t known but ‘sometime around / after Tour of Britain’ is when the UCI started testing him, according to the media accounts, and the suspect test(s) is from this period.

      Even if JTL handed over the results of his UCI test (if he had one in Sep) it wouldn’t have flashed up anything to anyone at that point. Because it took the UCI 12 months to build up the database of data for him and identify the anomaly from last year.

  2. Lee, if you consider JTL’s 2013 season a ‘fair’ one, god knows what you think a bad one is.

    Out of 18 races, he DNF 9 of them and was OTL for a further 2. He couldn’t finish a race from mid-Feb to mid-Jun. His highest result was 47th on a stage of Tour of the Algarve.

    In everyone else’s book he had a terrible 2013.

    As for the conspiracy theorists, I don’t get how they can rationalise the following:

    His best results were in Feb and Mar – Med, Haut-Var and Murcia – all 2.1s where he beat the likes of Rolland, Pinot, Quintana, Voeckler, Gilbert, Noncentini, Gavazzi, Peraud, Bouet etc.

    After this, in April, he went on a training camp with Sky. Not before. After. Just as around the same time, he went to Garmin to do tests for them as they were keen to sign him.

    He won Alsace (2.2.) in Jul – against a Conti team only field. Then he won Tour of Britain. ToB – a 2.1. His GC opposition, once Wiggins sacked off halfway through the race, and Konig lost time on stage 1 – was weak, no major players. We ain’t talking this year’s field with a committed Sky and a fit Wiggins, Quintana, Dan Martin etc.

    I’d still like to understand the rationale that Sky would dope a rider on another team. And THEN when he joins them, he’s absolutely dreadful. Surely he’d be charged up with the magic Sky juice this year? No?

  3. Beev: I’m trying to understand what you mean by ‘having all his data’. He had urine tests while racing with Endura up to the Tour of Britian but according to Smith, that was all.. What kind of data are you thinking? The data-set that the UCI have been building up over the last 12 months wasn’t available for JTL in either 2011 or 2012. Before Endura, he was probably tested even less when riding for Rapha Condor Sharp in 2011 – and again, the tests he had would just have been urine tests.

    So if a substance didnt show up in urine tests…what would or could have been highlighted?

    (not being argumentative – just trying to understand)

    1. i’m referring to BioP data only – which as i’m sure you know isn’t just about the presence of substances. This data is shared with the individual and also the (pro tour) team – hence my questioning and concern.

      In this case i think it is fair to assume that the steroid profile part of the BioP is not relevant – else we would know. It is also unlikely to be to do with urine tests for the same reasoning. That leaves me to believe that it is almost certainly all about blood – either levels (possibly) or haematological profile (more likely). When JTL was a RCS rider it is almost certain he wasn’t on the BioP (but could have been at the UCI’s behest). As a Endura rider he was – however, i do not have the information of what for/how/when he was tested. Same too goes for his time at Sky.

      All i do know is that the rider and Sky would have had the same data that the UCI had. On this point alone, it obviously raises the question as to what Sky are/were looking at in the data versus the what the UCI look at.

      No arguments from me about your posts – i like having a reasoned discussion anytime.

      1. Beev: Rapha’s a Conti team, and so was Endura was last year before merging with NetApp this year. As Conti teams, none of their riders were on the bio passport scheme. JTL has never been on any kind of bio passport system before becoming a Sky rider. In interviews since last Sep when news broke, Brian Smith has been saying that last March (?) JTL pushed him to try to get him onto the bio passport, and that Smith approached both UKAD (who rightly said no, its not their remit), and UCI – who said no, as JTL was a Conti rider – and they only manage the bio passsport for ProTour and ProConti. Smith maintains that the only time JTL had a blood test at all last year when racing for Endura from 1 Jan to the Tour of Britain in Sep was when he travelled to Girona mid-March to be tested by Garmin – who found no irregularities.

        The UCI had no data until they started gathering it for the bio passport. There’s no magic data set of his blood values from 2011-2012, before the UCI starting testing him in the last months of 2012. No magic set for the UCI, no magic set for Sky.

      2. not saying/insinuating anything about “magic” data sets.
        JTL, Sky and the UCI all have the same data re BioP.
        Sky has more data with their internal testing.
        UCI act first (based on a subset of available data to Sky).
        cue original question again….

  4. Beev: ok. So now your question is why didn’t Sky catch something before the UCI by testing JTL’s bio passport data throughout this year?

    We’re agreed that we’re not talking about testing for outright substances – we’re talking about bio passport testing for anomalies that may suggest doping.

    That’s a relatively simple one to answer I think. Teams don’t build up their own mirror set-ups to the UCI’s bio passport model and 3-man review panel, and WADA’s APMU in Lausanne. They don’t. None of them. They depend on the UCI and APMU process.

  5. The worry I have is how much testing has been done on blood profile stability to know what the actual limits are in staristically significant populations.

    Read a book ( real this time!) called the black swan and see how things which are assumed not to be possible, often are, and only the discovery of the exception, often denied for a long time afterwards leads to a trail that proves it can happen. I hope JTL is not the first victim of an unstable blood pathway metabolism, much as others have a problem regulating blood sugar.

    I well remember the nandrolone arguments – because supplements did not contain nandrolone they were assumed to be only an excuse by athletes tested positive which could not be the cause. Only a long time later was it discovered that substances not containg nandrolone could indeed create the metabolites. I will always believe that Linford Christie was innocent, testing positive two years after retiring, only staying on the roster to run an occasional club relay leg – tested positive when ” dared” into doing a low key indoor race by his athletes. Why would he bother?

    ,

  6. I must admit to being slightly amused watching the British Sky fans act just like so many US fans of BigTex and his various teams did for so many years. While for now I’ll not make any sort of claim that Rupert Murdoch’s pro cycling team is cheating on the scale of BigTex and Co, the claims and counterclaims to deflect suspicion and accountability away from Sky are eerily similar. …including from some who SHOULD know better.

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