Rob Hayles

Rob Hayles will be back in action at the Thames Velo road race after being handed back his racing licence.

The 35-year-old was prevented from racing in the World Track Championships when he failed a routine health check on March 26. His haematocrit was recorded at 50.3 per cent, above the permitted 50 per cent level and he was withdrawn from the individual pursuit.

UCI regulations meant he had to two-week lay-off, during which he?s been undergoing regular blood tests. All those tests showed results of between 45 and 48 per cent.

After 14 days out of action he was able to apply for the return of his licence and the UCI?s medical team was satisfied his haematocrit was under 50.

His first race will be Sunday?s Thames Velo RR in Oxfordshire, where he will ride in the Halfords Bikehut colours.

But he will continue to have regular blood tests for the next fortnight to provide evidence to support an application for an exemption on the basis he has a naturally high haematocrit level.

Hayles said today: ?It?s a relief to get my licence back. It?s been a rough couple of weeks. When it happened I felt like a trapdoor had opened and it was the end of my career but then I thought ?don?t be ridiculous?.

?I?ve had the odd bad day but as I?ve said I?ve got nothing to feel guilty about, it?s just the stigma and perception that goes with this.

?I?ve provided all the blood test results I?ve been asked to provide.

?You have to wait two weeks and if your haematocrit is under 50 per cent on the 15th day they give you your licence back. Mario [Zorzoli, the UCI?s head doctor] was away and they said I might have to wait until Monday but I?ve got a race on and I said there was no way I should have to wait.?

Hayles has been under the weather this week but will race on Sunday. ?I?m actually on the reserve list but the organiser has said there have been a few withdrawals so I?m in. I?m not 100 per cent but I want to get back in action.?

Now Hayles is waiting for the result of the dope test that was taken immediately after he failed the haematocrit test.

?It?s a relief to get my licence back but when that dope test comes back that?ll be the end of it. I know that test will come back negative and that means a lot to some people.?

The UCI will not give a rider an exemption for a naturally high haematocrit until a health check has been failed. Otherwise riders could dope to provide artificially high levels in order to gain a certificate.

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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.