UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has responded to the news that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has cleared world champion Lizzie Armitstead of a whereabouts rule violation. UKAD were consulting lawyers but said that they 'respected' the outcome of the case and that they were awaiting the reasoned decision. Strict conditions mean that further appeal to the CAS from UKAD would be unlikely to be accepted.
Armitstead had been under investigation from UKAD due to three missed tests and was provisionally suspended last month, though the suspension was not made public. The reigning world champion faced up to a four-year suspension, but she appealed to the CAS stating that that proper procedure had not been followed in the first test in August 2015. The CAS agreed and declared the first test null and void, therefore allowing Armitstead to return to racing and compete at the Olympic Games.
"We respect the outcome of the CAS hearing against Elizabeth Armitstead," UK Anti-Doping Chief Executive Nicole Sapstead said in a statement issued on Tuesday morning. “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."
UKAD also defended the decision to keep the investigation out of the public domain. "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."
Upholding the 'integrity' of the process
The statement released by Armitstead cited an administration error but did not elaborate much further other than to say that the missed test was as a “result of UKAD not following proper procedure nor fully attempting to make contact with me despite clear details being provided under 'whereabouts'.”
UKAD told Cyclingnews that they were unable to go into the specifics of Armitstead’s tests due to the ongoing legal process but stated that all doping control officers were fully trained in locating an athlete. Officers will do their utmost to ensure ‘no-notice’ testing to uphold the ‘integrity’ of the anti-doping procedure. UKAD went on to explain that in the event of testers needing to contact an athlete through a hotel reception, for example, it would become an ‘announced test’ and another would be done at a later date.
As a rule, the CAS decisions are deemed a final decision in any dispute and the conditions under which an appeal is allowed are minimal. The CAS website states: “Judicial recourse to the Swiss Federal Tribunal is allowed on a very limited number of grounds, such as lack of jurisdiction, violation of elementary procedural rules (e.g. violation of the right to a fair hearing) or incompatibility with public policy.”
Armitstead's statement also thanked British Cycling for their support. The governing body has said that they did not put any funds into supporting Armitstead's defence but had sought their own legal advice in the event that the appeal was unsuccessful and she was banned, which would have forced them into selecting an alternate rider for the Olympic Games.
Under current World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regulations, athletes must supply their whereabouts at all times for up to three months via the Anti-Doping Administration & Management System (ADAMS) and a daily 60-minute window for testing. This can be done via the WADA website or a mobile phone app. A failure can come about as a result of not filling in the ADAMS accurately or if they are not available at the time and location specified, which would count as a missed test.
In the case of a first rule violation, an athlete could be banned from anywhere between 12 and 24 months. That could be increased to as much as four years for a second whereabouts violation.