Team Sky has voluntarily withdrawn Colombian rider Sergio Henao from racing as his biological passport values are investigated by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF).
Team Sky issued a statement on Wednesday morning saying that Henao had been contacted by CADF to request information relating to his biological passport between August 2011 and June 2015. CADF is responsible for the Union Cycliste Internationale’s anti-doping programme.
Henao had previously been withdrawn from racing in March 2014 after anomalies in his biological passport were flagged up. Sky commissioned independent research into Henao’s values – specifically relating to altitude training – and he returned to racing in June 2014.
“After completing their research, the experts had the highest level of confidence that the readings which prompted us to undertake further testing were the athlete’s normal response to altitude,” read the statement.
“Sergio has this week been contacted by the CADF with a request for more information with regards to readings on his Athlete Blood Passport between August 2011 to June 2015. These include the same readings which prompted us to undertake further research in 2014.
“Given the team had drawn the attention of anti-doping authorities to the issue at the time, this does not come as a surprise.
“Sergio has not failed a drug test and the CADF process is conducted confidentially.
“We continue to support Sergio and remain confident in the independent scientific research which was undertaken. We will be helping Sergio make his case robustly over the coming period. He will also withdraw from racing until the issue is resolved given this contact from the CADF and the very obvious distraction to him. There is no obligation on us to do this but it is team policy if and when a formal process such as this begins.”
The 28-year-old had been named on Sky’s squad for Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne in Belgium, but has been withdrawn from the race.
Shortly after Henao returned to racing in June 2014 he suffered a crash during the Tour de Suisse and broke his kneecap. He returned from injury in March 2015 and has steadily been returning to condition. This season he placed third overall at the Tour Down Under and second overall in the Tour of the Basque Country.
Team Sky principal, Sir Dave Brailsford said: “The physiology of ‘altitude natives’ is a complex area. The science is limited and in recent years we have proactively sought to understand it better by undertaking detailed scientific research – both for Sergio and for the benefit of clean sport more widely.
“We recognise why the CADF have raised this issue as it is one we have obviously raised ourselves. Thus far Sergio’s data has been anonymous to the CADF experts. We hope and believe they will reach the same conclusions when they consider the background and all the evidence over the coming weeks.
“We believe in Sergio. He has just come back to full fitness after spending eight months recovering from a potentially career ending crash. But we respect the CADF process and will apply our team policy in the circumstances.
“We will continue to support him fully during this period so he can get back to racing as soon as possible.”