Wiggins: Armitstead has 'no excuse' for missing three tests

Veteran rider hits back at doping innuendo around British track team

Bradley Wiggins has said that British Cycling teammate Lizzie Armitstead has 'no excuse' for three missed anti-doping tests and filing errors. Armitstead almost missed the Olympic Games in Rio after a third error with her whereabouts in less than a year but was cleared to race after the first of her missed tests was ruled out.

In a lengthy open letter, Armitstead blamed in part her hectic schedule to an oversight that led to the second of her missed tests and said that an 'emergency situation' with her family had caused the other. These excuses didn't wash with Wiggins, who has been racing at a senior level since 1999.

"It's bloody hard because what happens is you miss one test, they write you a letter, they ask you to explain what happened, and you've got two weeks to put a case forward," Wiggins said in an interview with The Guardian's Weekend magazine. "If you ignore that and then you get another one, you end up having crisis meetings.

"When you're a professional athlete and you're a world champion, there's no excuse, because it's your career. You're setting the standard for everybody else, and to say: 'Cycling wasn't my priority at that time,' is ludicrous, because you nearly lost your career over it. That's just ridiculous. So I can't fathom how that happened."

Wiggins didn't state whether or not he had been through this process as a result of a missed test himself. Other British riders have admitted to missing one test in the past, including Mark Cavendish, Nicole Cooke and Chris Froome.

Armitstead's first missed test came in August of last year when she was at the Crescent Women World Cup Vargarda in Sweden. This was the test that was eventually ruled as being void by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after they ruled that the doping control officer hadn't done enough to locate Armitstead after her hotel refused to hand out her room number. Following a spot check in November of the same year, soon after she became world champion, an error in the information she had given was recorded and a second missed test was registered.

Following the first two missed tests and filing errors, Armitstead said that she had begun working with British Cycling in order to prevent it happening a third time. However, in June of this year, she recorded her third. She said that she had not updated her whereabouts when she returned home due to a family issue. However, Wiggins said that the efforts of UK sport made it hard to miss a test in the first place.

"You get a lot of support from UK Sport. They're brilliant, actually," Wiggins said. "They're on the phone daily. They send you emails, reminders, they'll put plans in place for you in terms of someone helping you with the whereabouts, so you don't end up … well, it's very difficult, then, to go from two to three [missed tests]. And to get three within eight or nine months, there's no excuse."

Innuendo and accusations

Wiggins had a few choice words for some of his rivals too, some of who questioned the performances of the British track team at the Rio Olympic Games. Britain topped the medal table in Brazil with 11 medals on the track, including six golds, and a bronze on the road. Wiggins won gold in the team pursuit, his fifth Olympic gold and eighth in total.

Anna Meares was one of those who posed questions, as did Olympic sprint champion Kristina Vogel and French sprint coach Laurent Gané.

"There's been a lot of innuendo, and people saying: 'I'm not saying they're cheating, what I'm saying is it doesn't make any sense,'" said Wiggins, "It's like: 'Well, what are you saying then?' When you dominate something to the degree that Team GB dominated, that's going to cause ill-feeling. But we peak every four years because of British cycling and the lottery funding thing is about winning medals at the Olympic Games. So I think there's a bit of sore-loser type."

The former Tour de France winner added that he believed blood doping was "nigh on impossible."

Wiggins is currently competing at the Tour of Britain with his WIGGINS team.

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