Team Sky have expressed their support for Sergio Henao after the Colombian was pulled from their Fleche Wallonne line-up following the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation’s request for further information regarding fluctuations in his biological passport.
Henao received a letter from the CADF this week asking him to provide an explanation for his blood values from the period 2011-2015. He has twenty days to respond.
Sky announced that they had withdrawn Henao from racing on Wednesday morning. Speaking to Cyclingnews at the start of Flèche Wallonne in Marche-en-Famenn, directeur sportif Kurt-Asle Arvesen said that they team had only learned of the issue on Tuesday evening.
“Of course, he was very disappointed,” Arvesen said. “And of course we were a little bit down last night, but we still have seven guys who want to fight today so we will focus on the race. That’s all we can do and hopefully they will sort out this problem quickly.
“We believe in Sergio. We just need all the facts on the table. For him, he lives up in altitude, he comes here, and then he goes back to altitude. We just need all the facts on the table.”
Henao was previously withdrawn from racing by Team Sky in March 2014, when the team announced its plans to study the effects of living and training at altitude on his blood values. After the so-called ‘altitude research programme,’ Henao returned to racing at that year’s Tour de Suisse and Sky reportedly contacted the CADF with its findings.
"I was not involved in that so I don’t know the facts," Arvesen said when asked if the 2014 study had been completed to Team Sky’s satisfaction. “I don’t more than is in the statement, I’m afraid. I’m here as a sports director and I’m here to focus on the race.”
The 28-year-old Henao was set to lead Sky at Flèche Wallonne, where he placed second in 2013, and play an important role at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Sky were unable to field a replacement at Flèche Wallonne and lined out with seven riders.
Arvesen's words of support for Henao echoed those of team manager Dave Brailsford in Team Sky's statement on the Henao case, when he also said: "We believe in Sergio."
"We will continue to support him fully during this period so he can get back to racing as soon as possible," Brailsford added.
In the body of their statement, Team Sky said: "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."
Henao’s cousin, Sebastian Henao, was among the seven Sky riders who did take the start of Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, and he also expressed his support for the Colombian, who is his regular training partner and room-mate.
“The team’s communique says what’s going on, explains well what’s happened and he’s not racing for now, I hope it resolves itself soon. It’s an internal policy that the team has, the same as it has with the UCI, not to compete, but I know it’ll all sort itself out soon,” Henao said. “I spoke with Sergio in the hotel room, it’s hard for him not to be able to race, he’s calm because he’s worked so hard and made so many sacrifices. Soon he’ll be back racing.”
Asked if he trusted in Sergio Henao’s good faith, Sebastian Henao said: “Yes, yes, he’s more like a brother to me. I’m always spending time with him training and in races. I wish him the best, and that soon again he’ll be fighting hard as always.”