The Cycling Anti Doping Foundation (CADF), the anti-doping arm of the UCI, has opened a biological passport case against Sergio Henao, who as a result has been temporarily withdrawn from racing by Team Sky for the second time in his career. The Colombian has 20 days to respond to the CADF's request for more information and explanations relating to his blood profile from a period between August 2011 to June 2015.
Henao was sent a letter earlier this week informing him of a "potential anti-doping rule violation" and that he has 20 days in which to respond.
The rider posted a reaction on the Team Sky website - where the news first broke - saying: "I am beyond disappointed. I have worked incredibly hard to get back to racing fitness after shattering my knee last year - but I know who I am, how hard I have worked and the sacrifices I have made to be where I am today."
"I am calm and confident that this will be resolved soon so I can get back to racing as soon as possible."
The UCI responded to Cyclingnews' request for a comment, saying: "As per the applicable regulations, when the independent experts in charge of reviewing biological passport profiles require further information from the athlete, this stage is confidential. However, given that this is already in the public domain, the UCI and CADF confirm that Sergio Henao has been asked to provide explanations for his ABP values. As per WADA’s ABP process, once provided, his explanations will be sent back to the same experts for review and assessment. In the meantime, the UCI and CADF cannot comment further.”
Henao was first withdrawn from racing in March 2014 and was subsequently placed on a Team Sky ‘altitude research programme’ of testing. At the time Team Sky contacted the CADF with their findings, which were based on a test done in October 2013 when Henao was back in Colombia. The test was part of the UCI's out-of-competition testing programme.
In June of 2014 he was cleared to race by his team after an internal investigation and urine and blood tests cleared him of any wrongdoing. He returned to racing at the Tour de Suisse.
At the time of clearing Henao, Team Sky confirmed that their internal testing programme was conducted by a team from the University of Sheffield with the cooperation of the Colombian anti-doping authorities. Speaking to Cyclingnews in March 2014, Dave Brailsford said:
"We were left with three choices. One was let him carry on and then see whether in seven months' time he gets a letter from the UCI or not, we could stop him totally and say we're not happy with the situation but because it's new information that would be very harsh. So we decided on a third option where we try and find new a approach but it's a very difficult situation."
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The 2014 testing programme started in Europe, continued for six-weeks at altitude in Colombia and finished with final base-level tests in Nice. The findings were given to WADA, the UCI and CADF and that all urine tests are in the rider’s biological passport.
The team added at the time that the medical experts would look to publish a full medical paper, although this has not yet materialised.
"The physiology of 'altitude natives' is a complex area,” Brailsford said in relation to today’s news.
“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.”