Mark Cavendish believes that Lizzie Armitstead is a clean rider but insists she only has herself to blame for the mess she finds herself in after her suspension and subsequent reprieve for three whereabouts strikes in the space of a year.
It emerged last week that the women's world champion had been suspended by UKAD after two missed tests and one filing error in the last 12 months, but she escaped a ban after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) expunged the first missed test from August 2015.
Armitstead recognised that her reputation and credibility have been irrevocably tarnished by the episode but insisted she has never cheated. Cavendish, her compatriot and former world champion on the men's side, doesn't doubt her, but feels she could have done more to prevent the situation she now finds herself in.
"Did she dope? No, and I don't believe she did, you know," Cavendish said in an interview on Sky Sports News. "Was it an administrative error? Yes, it was, absolutely. Was it her fault? Yes, it was, absolutely.
"Probably the majority of sports people have a missed test because you're a bit blasé until you miss your first test. But three? I think Lizzie herself could have prevented the chaos that she's in."
Cavendish referred to a missed test of his own just before the Giro d'Italia in 2011 in discussing athletes' duties with regard to the whereabouts system. The Manxman was out filming with the television crew on Mt Etna and hadn't updated his whereabouts. He explained in the interview how he has taken extra care ever since.
"I know from personal experience how difficult the whereabouts system can be," he said, "but I have an alarm on my phone every night at six and my wife has an alarm on her phone and she makes a habit of it every night when we talk before bed – 'Have you done your whereabouts?'
"I'm in the [Olympic] village, it's done for the next week, but every night she asks: 'Have you done your whereabouts?'"
As for the four-year ban Armitstead was facing had she not been saved by the CAS ruling, Cavendish feels that it is unfair that whereabouts errors can carry sanctions of similar severity to positive anti-doping tests.
"I don't think it is fair that you can get a bigger sanction for an admin failure than for an actual doping offence - it's ridiculous."
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