When Lizzie Armitstead didn’t line up for the past two Women’s WorldTour events in July, it didn’t seem to surprise anyone. She’s stated many times that her complete focus this summer would be on her preparations for the Olympic road race coming up on Sunday. But today we learned that the world champion was in fact suspended due to several missed doping tests, and faced a ban that would have her miss out on Rio as well as racing in general for the next four years.
UK’s Daily Mail today broke the news that Armitstead was charged last month by the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) for missing three doping tests in a 12-month period and was facing a four-year ban including the Rio Olympics.
The so called ‘whereabouts’ anti-doping program requires athletes to provide their whereabouts at all times so they are available for out-of-competition testing at any time and without advanced notice.
| Related: A look inside the Whereabouts Program
UKAD cites that Armitstead failed to provide accurate information regarding her whereabouts on three separate occasions, dating back to August 20, 2015. The other two whereabouts failures were committed on, October 5, 2015 and June 9, 2016.
Armitstead was suspended on July 11 pending disciplinary action, hence missing any races in the build-up to the Olympics.
Armitstead and a legal team funded by British Cycling went up against UKAD at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on July 21 and successfully had the first of the three failures removed from her record, due to an error on the doping officer’s part.
Armitstead’s legal team did not dispute the other two missed attempts but explained that one was an administrative error and the most recent incident was due to an emergency change of plans due to a serious illness within her family.
CAS ruled that there was no negligence on Armitstead’s part and the charge and suspension were dropped, allowing Armitstead to race in Rio on Sunday.
In a response by UKAD, the anti-doping agency explained that it’s common practice to keep provisional suspension quiet.
“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,” the agency stated. “This is to ensure that the rights and privacy of everyone involved are respected and to ensure the case is not unnecessarily prejudiced.”
When UKAD asserts a Whereabouts Failure against an athlete, the athlete has the opportunity to challenge the charge 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,” the UKAD statement reads. “We are awaiting the Reasoned Decision from the CAS Panel as to why the first Whereabouts Failure was not upheld.”
We will keep you informed as this story develops.