Chris Froome could have an extra climber to help him in his bid to win a second Tour de France, with Team Sky announcing that Sergio Henao had been cleared of questions over his blood values and would soon return to racing.
In March La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that the Colombian had been sidelined due to unexplained blood readings; Team Sky responded by issuing a statement acknowledging this was the case and said that experts monitoring readings on the team had raised questions about the rider’s out of competition results at altitude.
Team Principal Dave Brailsford said the team contacted the UCI and the Cycling Anti Doping Foundation [CADF] over the matter, and that independent scientific research would be commissioned to ‘better understand the effects of prolonged periods at altitude after returning from sea level, specifically on altitude natives.’
He added that the results from the study would be made available to WADA, the UCI and the CADF.
The team announced today that the scientific experts had concluded their ten week assessment and had given ‘the highest level of confidence in Sergio’s previous data and profiles.’
It added that it believed the study would give important insights into the physiology of altitude natives.
Brailsford confirmed that the rider would be back in action this weekend. “We’re very pleased to welcome Sergio back to racing and are looking forward to having him at the Tour de Suisse,” he said.
“Our approach has been fair to both the rider and the team, and whilst it was our decision to take him out of racing, it is also ours that he returns with our full backing.
“He’s done everything that’s been asked of him, kept his focus and fully deserves to be racing.”
Although he hasn’t competed since the Tour of Oman, Henao’s participation in the Tour de Suisse could put him in line for selection for the Tour de France.
Team Sky’s line-up for the race will be confirmed after the Swiss event. Brailsford stated in recent days that the Tour team would be decided then by a panel chaired by him; his comments on the matter were regarded as a response to Bradley Wiggins’ claims that he would not be selected for the Tour de France.
Wiggins is also expected to compete in Switzerland, and will seek to ride well there in order to try to force the hand of the selectors.
According to Team Sky, Henao’s research programme was conducted by a team from the University of Sheffield. Beginning in Europe at the end of March, it then was carried out for six weeks at altitude in Colombia, and then concluded last week with tests at sea level in Nice.
It states that a full scientific research paper will be carried out in the months ahead. This will presumably be of value in determining how other altitude natives respond to periods at high and low levels, and what variations can be seen in their biological passports compared to others who originate from lower altitudes.
“By taking this structured, scientific approach, we’ve gained a better understanding of his readings and specific physiology and valuable insights into the effects of altitude,” said Brailsford in a team statement.