By Nick Butler

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has been handed a two year ban after discrepancies were found in his biological passport ©Getty ImagesA difficult month for Team Sky has taken a turn for the worse after confirmation that British rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has been handed a two-year ban by the International Cycling Union (UCI) for a violation of his biological passport.

This follows Chris Froome being forced to pull out of the defence of his Tour de France title after suffering a series of crashes on stages four and five of this year's event. 

Tiernan-Locke was awarded a Team Sky contract for the 2013 season after a series of superb performances for the Endura team the previous year, culminating with victory at the 2012 Tour of Britain to follow earlier triumphs at the Tour du Haut Var, Tour of the Mediterranean and Tour d'Alsace.

The Plymouth-born rider also finished in 19th place in the road race at the 2012 World Championship in Limburg

But, after his subsequent year with Team Sky was disrupted by injury and loss of form, it emerged last September there were "abnormalities" in his biological passport results dating back to performances recorded the previous year.

Following several months of delays, it has been confirmed today that the 29-year-old has been handed a two-year ban, backdated from December 31, 2013, while he has also been stripped of results, including his Tour of Britain triumph.

His contract with Team Sky has also been terminated.

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke had briefly been the first Tour of Britain winner since 1993 ©Getty ImagesJonathan Tiernan-Locke had briefly been the first Tour of Britain winner since 1993
©Getty Images

"Whilst there have been no doubts about his time with us, his doping violation, from readings taken before he joined this team, means there's no place for him in Team Sky," Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford said.

"We have a well-known stance on anti-doping and our action is the inevitable outcome of a violation.

"This is a team that trains, races and wins clean."

Although his abnormal readings were taken before he signed in 2012, the incident certainly raises questions of Team Sky's selection policy, particularly considering the appointment of Belgian doctor Geert Leinders, who was embroiled in a doping scandal involving his previous team, Rabobank, and is now facing a criminal investigation.

But Team Sky, the team that also produced the 2012 Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins, have insisted that their senior management had reviewed their recruitment processes, and appointed a compliance officer, a long-standing British Cycling employee and Brailsford's one-time personal assistant, Alison Johnson, to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

They claim the biggest problem was that they had no available data to study because, as a third tier team, Endura were not subject to regular biological passport tests, so it was only after Tiernan-Locke's remarkable run of success that he was regularly tested.

There were apparently then no further readings to establish a pattern until spring 2013.

Given that it involved a fellow Briton, the Tiernan-Locke case was also something of an embarrassment for UCI President Brian Cookson, particularly as it emerged soon after he had defeated Pat McQuaid in a Presidential race in which he promoted a strong anti-drugs stance based partly upon the lack of positive tests involving British riders.

But, it is also important to note that the UCI's public approach adopted with regard to Tiernan-Locke, where the verdict was announced soon after being made, marked a contrast with the highly criticised one in evidence regarding Russian rider Denis Menchov.

News that the former Giro d'Italia champion had been stripped of results including second place at the 2010 Tour de France emerged only via the media after the UCI did not circulate the news.

Australia's Nathan Haas, riding for the Garmin-Sharp squad, is now set to be promoted to victory in the 2012 Tour of Britain. 

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