Henao opens up about his biological passport ordeal

"Why me?" Sergio Henao has described the psychological turmoil he's going through after being suspended by Team Sky over biological passport issues for the second time in his career.

The Colombian was taken out of competition last month after the UCI opened investigations into his blood data - as he had been in 2014 when the British team themselves noted anomalies, which studies later attributed to the rider's stats as an 'altitude native'.

Given that Henao's first suspension was followed almost immediately by a career-threatening knee injury and a further 10 months on the sidelines, the second suspension has came as a new blow in a rough couple of years. Speaking publicly for the first time since being taken out of competition, in an interview with Colombian newspaper El Espectador, Henao described the ordeal.

"I thought that this was already a story that had been forgotten about," he said. "It hit me hard and it's still hitting me hard.

"I keep asking myself: 'Why me?' There are innocent people in prison and this is the same."

Henao explained that the situation was all the more painful given his 2016 season had begun so promisingly, with third overall at the Tour Down Under, sixth at Paris-Nice, and second at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. There were high hopes, too, for the Giro d'Italia, which he is having to watch on TV.

"It was really hard receiving the news because I felt I was in an extraordinary moment of my career," said Henao.

"At times it really saddens me and I cry at not being at the Giro. That's what has hit me hardest and left the sourest taste, because I was in the best moment of my career."

Despite the "sadness", Henao says he does feel calm since he has total confidence in his innocence.

"I will do the same [as I did in 2014]," he said. "I have nothing to hide, I have a clean conscience, my blood and urine tests show I've never used anything and that the biological passport fluctuations are due to my physiology."

Back to Colombia and keeping himself in shape

Henao has returned to Colombia, where he has continued to train and maintain his condition, while also being able to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.

Having not been officially sanctioned, Henao needs to be ready to make his return to competition, and he already has his sights set on the Criterium du Dauphine or Tour de Suisse next month, followed, possibly, by the Tour de France in July and later the Olympic Games road race in Rio. He revealed he has been in contact with Colombian national coach Carlos Mario Jaramillo and will travel to Brazil to reconnoitre the course in June. 

"It must be made clear that I was only sidelined by my team because their policy dictates that when a rider is being investigated internally, that's how you deal with it. But I haven’t been sanctioned by the UCI and if the Olympics or Worlds were tomorrow, I'd be able to compete," said Henao.

"I arrived last week in Colombia and am now dedicated to gym work and recovering from the demanding first part of the year. Physically, I'm in great shape and I'm preparing myself because I know that at any moment this might resolve itself and it'll be time to return to racing."

Henao confirmed Cyclingnews' report that he and Team Sky had left it until last Monday – the deadline – to respond to the UCI's request for more information pertaining to the blood data in question.

He said the team wanted to compile as thorough a body of information as possible, no doubt including findings from the study they commissioned in 2014 into the changes in altitude natives when going between sea level and altitude.

The matter is now in the hands of the UCI and Henao – who said Sky have "tried to put pressure on so that it's all sorted out as quickly as possible" – hopes there's a decision before the end of the Giro.

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