Lizzie Armitstead risked missing the Olympic road race next week after UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) tried to ban her for two years for missing three anti-doping controls within a 12-month period.
The world champion, who was provisionally suspended on 11 July this year, took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ruled she was not at fault for the first ‘missed’ test, reports Mail Online.
The 27-year-old from Otley, West Yorkshire, accepts that she was at fault for the other two missed tests, meaning that between now and October she is still only one more away from being banned.
The CAS hearing was held on 21 July with Armitstead supported by British Cycling and related to alleged missed tests on 20 August 2015, 5 October 2015 and 9 June 2016.
Under the World Anti-Doping Code, athletes must notify their whereabouts for the purposes of anti-doping control for a set hour each day, using the World Anti-Doping Agency’s ADAMS system.
Three missed tests in 12 months constitutes an anti-doping rule violation and can lead to a ban of up to four years.
The reasons for the CAS decision were outlined in a statement from Armitstead’s representatives, which reads:
"The ruling relates to a UKAD anti-doping test which was asserted to have been attempted on Thursday August 20, 2015, whilst Armitstead was staying at the team hotel, during the UCI Women's Road World Cup in Sweden.
"CAS ruled that the UKAD doping control officer had not followed required procedures nor made reasonable attempts to locate Armitstead.
"CAS also ruled that there was no negligence on Armitstead's part and that she had followed procedures according to the guidelines.
"Armitstead undertook in-competition testing the following day, as leader of the UCI Women's Road World Cup.
"The independent panel of leading legal experts from CAS promptly and unanimously cleared Armitstead of the asserted missed test."
According to Mail Online, for that test in August last year, the anti-doping official gave hotel staff no explanation as to why he needed to know Armitstead’s room number, and they declined to give him the information.
While he did try and call Armitstead, the rider’s phone was set to silent as she slept, and that seems to have been the only attempt to get in touch with her.
“'I have always been and will always be a clean athlete and have been vocal in my anti-doping stance throughout my career,” Armitstead said in her statement.
“I am pleased that CAS has accepted my position, having provided detailed information demonstrating the situation around my strikes.
“This issue was one of administration and was the result of UKAD not following proper procedure nor fully attempting to make contact with me despite clear details being provided under ‘whereabouts’.
“I was tested in competition the day after this test, reinforcing my position that I do not cheat and had no intention of not being tested.
“I think that there should be clearer guidelines for those administrating tests and would like to work with UKAD going forward to explore how this can be better addressed in the future so no other athlete is put in this position.
“Meanwhile, I hope that UKAD can now return to the important job of making sure all athletes are clean and that Rio is the clean Olympics that we all want.
“I understand how important it is to be vigilant in my role as a professional athlete and realise the potential implications this could have had. I would like to thank British Cycling and the team around me for all of their help and support.
'I am very much looking forward to putting this situation behind me and firmly focusing on Rio again after what has been an extremely difficult time for myself and my family.”
The statement did acknowledge, however, that the rider was at fault for the other two missed tests, saying: “The October 2015 failure was the result of a filing failure on ADAMS caused by an administrative oversight. Armitstead did not dispute the oversight.
“The June 2016 missed test was the result of Armitstead not updating her whereabouts on ADAMS, having had an emergency change of plans due to a serious illness within her family.”
Following the Olympic Games, where the London 2012 road race runner-up to Marianne Vos of the Netherlands starts as favourite to take gold, Armitstead has a busy schedule off the bike next month with her wedding to Team Sky rider Philip Deignan and the launch of her autobiography, Steadfast.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.