It has been reported that British Cycling sent an email to all riders in February last year advising them to include room numbers on their whereabouts information. An international doping control officer has defended Lizzie Armitstead however, saying that the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision was correct and that the tester was not sufficiently committed to carrying out her first missed test in August of last year.
Armitstead did not challenge that missed test when first notified about it but successfully challenged it when facing a possible ban following a third missed test in June.
The Telegraph reports her as saying: “I did think about it. But the reason I didn’t was because it was my first strike and it was very close to the World Championships, so I was travelling to America. I also didn’t have the legal advice. It felt very much them against me. I was very naive. I went ahead to the World Championships and I didn’t want the distraction.”
Armitstead does not contest the second missed test in October. “It was just after becoming world champion and I was spinning too many plates and one fell off. I was seeing family and friends that I had not seen for months, I was in holiday mode, I was absolutely not trying to deceive anybody. Since then, extra precautions have been put in place around increased diligence and care and my priority is ‘whereabouts’.”
Regarding the third missed test on June 9, she reiterated that it was “a private family matter,” adding: “All the circumstances were accepted. It was just the degree of negligence which was being questioned.”
Commenting on the issue via her website, 2008 Olympic road race champion Nicole Cooke points out that the ADAMS identification system allows for athletes to notify testing authorities by either sending a text message or ringing a hotline up to one minute before the one-hour testing window opens.
While Cooke makes no specific comments about Armitstead, she seems unsympathetic to athletes who miss a series of out-of-competition tests. “In 14 year of tests I have one recorded missed out of competition test. Therefore in order to broach the “three missed tests” rule my career would have to be extrapolated to run for three times as long or 42 years, not one year, as the rules currently stand.”
Speaking to CyclingTips, an international doping control officer has however said that he is ‘happy’ that Armitstead won her appeal.
Referring to the first missed test, he questioned how committed the tester was. “The guy said that he wasn’t given access at the hotel. That is quite unusual, really. If you start flashing badges that you are anti-doping anywhere on the continent, especially in a hotel that is keeping bike riders, normally the hotel will give it up.”
He added that a committed tester would almost always find a way of getting access to the rider.
“It is the policy of a hotel not to give out the information of a guest. But you tell hotel staff who you are and how important a test is. I have never had it that I have been refused completely.
“I have got around the person at the desk, saying, ‘look, this is really important for this person. If I don’t get to test them today within this hour, it could be considered a missed test and they might be up for an anti-doping rule violation. And you will have to come to the hearing on their behalf.’
“I frighten the life out of them, and it works. It’s because I’m committed to getting the test done.”
He also said that despite the seriousness of missed tests, some athletes would outline their whereabouts for a given three-month period but rarely update it when plans changed.
“Some athletes are brilliant. They send a SMS [to the whereabouts system] ‘staying in my girlfriend’s house tonight, here is the address, blah blah blah, my designated hour is the same [as before]…six to seven.’
“Others are not good. There are some who never update things during that three month period. It depends on the person.”
In a statement earlier today, Armitstead said that in December 2015, she met with UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) and British Cycling to discuss a support plan in order to avoid a potential ‘third strike’.
Speaking about the circumstances surrounding the June 9 missed test, she writes:
“Simon Thornton from British Cycling was put in place to check my whereabouts on a bi-weekly basis. We had regular contact and he would help me with any problems, effectively he was a fail-safe mechanism. Since meeting with Ukad my whereabouts updates have been as detailed and specific as they can possibly be. Going as far as I can in describing my locations to avoid any further issues.
“Unfortunately, this system fell apart on the June 9 when Ukad tried to test me in my hour slot and I was not where I had stated I would be.
“Simon Thornton had left BC three weeks prior to my strike without anybody informing me. We worked under a policy of ‘no news was good news’ as outlined in my support plan with Ukad.
“If Simon was still in place the following oversight could have been prevented. My overnight accommodation (the bed in which I was sleeping the morning of the test) was correct, but I had failed to change the one hour testing slot, it was clearly impossible to be in both locations.
“This is where I believe I have the right to privacy. My personal family circumstances at the time of the test were incredibly difficult, the medical evidence provided in my case was not contested by Ukad, they accepted the circumstances I was in.
“Ukad did not perceive my situation to be ‘extreme’ enough to alleviate me of a negligence charge.
“A psychiatrist assessment of my state of mind at the time was contrary. In my defence I was dealing with a traumatic time and I forgot to change a box on a form.
“I am not a robot, I am a member of a family, my commitment to them comes over and above my commitment to cycling. This will not change and as a result I will not discuss this further, our suffering does not need to be part of a public trial.”