Wednesday 22 January 2020

Armitstead under fire despite avoiding ban for missed tests

Lizzie Armitstead. Photo: Bethany Clarke/Getty Images
Lizzie Armitstead. Photo: Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

Ben Rumsby

Lizzie Armitstead faced being banned from the Olympics for missing three drugs tests in 10 months despite being given "escalating support" to avoid that fate, the chief executive of UK Anti-doping (UKAD) said yesterday.

The British cyclist, considered a gold medal contender for Sunday's road race, awoke to some awkward questions this morning after escaping becoming only the second Briton to be sanctioned for the offence, having successfully argued she was not to blame for the first of those "whereabouts failures" at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

It emerged yesterday that the 27-year-old London 2012 silver medallist and reigning world champion did not formally challenge that first missed test when originally informed of it last August and that she had recorded a second and third despite UKAD then assigning a "dedicated member of staff" to help her fulfil her commitments.

Opinion was divided yesterday on how much responsibility Armitstead bore for her Olympic dream almost being destroyed, with UKAD criticised after being judged by CAS not to have followed the correct process during the first missed test and the cyclist herself coming under fire for recording two subsequent whereabouts failures.

Nicole Sapstead, the UKAD chief executive, said: "UK Anti-Doping recognises that athletes can make mistakes and that plans can change at short notice. We therefore 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."

She added: "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.

"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."

Armitstead's father, John, took to Twitter to defend his daughter, insisting she had informally challenged the first missed test but had not pursued the matter further at the time due to the "cost".

Others were less sympathetic.

Former British Olympic rowing champion Zac Purchase posted on Twitter: "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."

The only other British athlete to have been sanctioned for three missed tests was former Olympic 400 metres Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu, who was suspended for 12 months in 2006.

Armitstead, who is engaged to Irish cyclist Philip Deignan said the missed first test was an "issue of administration and was the result of UKAD not following proper procedure", adding that she had been tested in-competition the next day. She said she had "always been and always will be a clean athlete". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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