UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) says that world champion road cyclist Lizzie Armitstead did not challenge challenge the first of three missed out-of-competition drugs test last year when it was notified to her.
The 27-year-old, who rides for Olympic gold in the road race at Rio on Sunday, was provisionally suspended last month after missing two further anti-doping controls in the past 12 months.
Under Article 2.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code 2015 Armitstead, who accepted she was at fault for the two subsequent violations, faced a ban of up to two years.
However, she challenged the first violation at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), claiming that the UKAD testing official had not followed the correct procedure when he arrived at the hotel in Sweden where she was staying before racing for her Boels-Dolmans team.
According to a statement released this morning on behalf of the rider,
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 Road World Cup.
The independent panel of leading legal experts from CAS promptly and unanimously cleared Armitstead of the asserted missed test.
That initial missed test took place on the morning of Thursday 20 June last year. Armitstead had correctly logged her location for that day on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s ADAMS Whereabouts management system as the hotel where her team was staying.
The UKAD official reportedly arrived at the hotel and requested Armitstead’s room number, without explaining the purpose of the visit, and hotel staff declined to give out the information.
One attempt was made to contact the rider via her mobile phone, but it was set to silent while she slept.
The other two missed drugs tests took place respectively on 5 October 2015 and 9 June 2016, with Armitstead accepting responsibility for both, meaning she cannot afford another one within the next two months.
The statement issues on her behalf said the first of those was due to “an administrative oversight” in logging her Whereabouts, while the second resulted from a last-minute change of plans due to family illness.
Nicole Sapstead chief executive of UKAD, pointed out that Armitstead had been informed of the first two alleged Whereabouts violations at the time they were recorded, but chose not to challenge them, even though a third would automatically trigger disciplinary proceedings.
She said: "We respect the outcome of the CAS hearing against Elizabeth Armitstead.
“When UKAD asserts a Whereabouts Failure against an athlete, the athlete has the opportunity to challenge the apparent Whereabouts Failure through an external Administrative Review, before it is confirmed.
“Only when three Whereabouts Failures are confirmed is the case then put through an independent review to determine whether the athlete has a case to answer for a violation of Article 2.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code.
“Ms Armitstead chose not to challenge the first and second Whereabouts Failures at the time they were asserted against her.
“At the CAS hearing, Ms Armitstead raised a defence in relation to the first Whereabouts Failure, which was accepted by the Panel.
“We are awaiting the Reasoned Decision from the CAS Panel as to why the first Whereabouts Failure was not upheld.”
She added that knowing the location of athletes for out-of-competition testing “is a vital component of our intelligence-led testing programme,” and that they “have a fundamental responsibility to make themselves available and accessible for testing anywhere and at any time … [including] … providing sufficient information to be located for testing.”
Acknowledging that mistakes can be made or plans changed at short notice, Sapstead underlined that UKAD “provide a huge amount of support to athletes throughout their time on the Whereabouts programme to ensure the information they provide is accurate and submitted in a timely manner,” as well as “additional, escalating support to athletes who incur Whereabouts Failures which is tailored to their specific needs.”
She concluded: “It is important to note that we will not publicly disclose provisional suspensions, or disclose details of cases, until an anti-doping rule violation has deemed to have been committed, at which point information will be published on our website.
“This is to ensure that the rights and privacy of everyone involved are respected and to ensure the case is not unnecessarily prejudiced.”
Armitstead, who won silver in the road race at London 2012 – Team GB’s first medal of the Games – was reportedly represented in her CAS appeal by a legal team supported by British Cycling.
But as blogger Inner Ring points out, the funding model of British Cycling, which relies on meeting Olympic medal targets, “sets up an obvious conflict of interest with a governing body’s financial interests becoming aligned with that of a rider rather than the more neutral position a sports administration is supposed to take.”
The blogger also questioned the reasons given for Armitstead’s withdrawal from La Course de la Tour de France, which took place in Paris on 24 July, reported at the time to be so she could focus on the Olympics – although it is clear now that she could not have ridden anyway, since she was provisionally suspended from 11 July.
Rower Zac Purchase, who won gold in the lightweight double sculls at Beijing in 2008 and silver in the same event in London four years ago, was among athletes commenting on Twitter about the news concerning Armitstead.
He said: “Given huge amount of resources @ their disposal, having multiple missed tests/filing failure is a monumental cockup! Imagine what we would be saying if she was Russian … #NotWorthIt #KeepSportClean.”
In June last year, three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome admitted he had missed an out-of-competition test which he said was due to staff at a hotel he was staying at with his wife Michelle refusing to let anti-doping officials see him due to a policy of not allowing guests to be disturbed.
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.