Lizzie Armitstead met with UK Anti-Doping and British Cycling last December in order to discuss how she could avoid registering a third strike in the anti-doping whereabouts system in the build-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The Briton revealed the meeting in a two-page statement issued on Wednesday in response to the news that she had been provisionally suspended - and then cleared - in July for registering three missed tests or whereabouts filing failures in the space of twelve months. Armitstead successfully appealed her ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport last month and will line out as favourite for gold in Sunday’s Olympic Games road race.
“In December 2015, I met with UKAD and British Cycling to discuss a support plan in order to avoid a third potential ‘strike’,” Armitstead wrote.
“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.”
Armitstead said that she had been unaware that Thornton had by then left British Cycling, where he worked as compliance officer, for a new role as equality and diversity advisor at Liverpool FC, and blamed this oversight for her third strike.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
Armitstead also attributed the missed test to an “emergency family situation” though, as in her interview with the Daily Mail on Tuesday evening, she declined to offer any detail on the incident in question. In the formal hearing, neither UKAD nor CAS accepted that there were any extenuating circumstances for the missed test on June 9.
“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,” Armitstead wrote, but added: “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.”
First strike overturned
Armitstead successfully contested the first of her three strikes – a missed test in Sweden on August 20 last year – before CAS, though UKAD noted that she hadn't seen fit to lodge a formal challenge until she had recorded two further strikes.
“UKAD are allowed a maximum of two weeks to inform you of a ‘strike.’ When I received the letter from UKAD I immediately contested it with a written explanation, this was not accepted on the eve of me travelling to America for my world championships,” Armitstead wrote. “I had no legal advice or external support at the time.”
Armitstead added that her second strike, in October 2015, was due to filing failure rather than a missed test, which she blamed on her flexible schedule following her World Championships victory. “UKAD did not try to test me, instead this was an administrative spot check. They found an inconsistency between an overnight accommodation and a morning time slot,” she wrote.
“I am self coached, I work outside British Cycling and its systems, I race for a women’s team that doesn’t have a budget to match a world tour men’s team who have staff specifically in place to supports riders with whereabouts.”
Armitstead concluded by insisting on her good faith and by taking a swipe at the questions she has faced over the past 24 hours on social media. Peers from the professional peloton, including Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Valentina Scandolara, were among those to question the CAS verdict, which would have remained confidential had it not been revealed by the Daily Mail.
“I am sorry for causing anyone to lose faith in sport, I am an example of what hard work and dedication can achieve. I hate dopers and what they have done to sport,” Armitstead wrote. “To any of the ‘Twitter Army’ reading this, do yourself a favour and go for a bike ride. It’s the most beautiful thing you can do to clear your mind.”
Cyclingnews Podcast - Lizzie Armitstead and the three missed anti-doping tests