With recent news that Lizzie Armitstead has been provisionally suspended, which explained her absence at recent Women’s WorldTour events, the world champion saw herself caught up in a media frenzy, days after announcing to publish her autobiography this September.
The 27-year-old Boels-Dolmans rider has kept quiet since the suspension started on July 11, until she spoke with the Daily Mail yesterday, in response to some of the questions raised.
Today, she went a step further and published a personal, heartfelt explanation on her Facebook page, which we publish here in full:
“I am writing this statement in my own words, something I have wanted to do from the very beginning. Understandably people have questions which I want to answer as openly and honest as I can. I hope people understand that speaking with journalists is a necessary part of my job, speaking directly to the public in a statement like this, which has not been ghost written or moulded by somebody else is un heard of. I want to take responsibility for this message, this is my life and not a game of headlines. I want to state the facts but also try to explain my situation further. I believe I owe this statement to sports fans, people who love sport like I do.
As an 18 year old school girl I was introduced to the whereabouts system. 9 years ago. Since then the system has evolved and developed, post October 2015 I recognised this and requested further education from UKAD, I will come back to this later.
By submitting my whereabouts I am consenting to people coming into my house or hotel and taking blood and urine samples. This is a part of my sport that I accept and whole heartedly support.
To add some background before I explain the specific details of my 3 ‘strikes’.
I have been tested 16 times in 2016.
I have a clear and valid blood passport (a more detailed use of looking for doping violations by looking for trends vs anomalies in my blood values)
I have been tested after every victory this season.
I am on the road for around 250 days a year, with around 60 race days.
I have never tested positive for a banned substance.
I have never taken a band substance.
I will present the facts of my 3 ‘strikes’
Sweden 20th August 2015
UKAD are allowed a maximum of 2 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. I had no legal advise or external support at the time.
CAS ruled quickly and unanimously in my favour and cleared me of any wrong doing, because:
I was at the hotel I stated.
The DCO didn’t do what was reasonable or necessary to find me.
I was tested the next day, this test was negative.
Calling an athletes mobile phone is not a method approved by UKAD to try and locate an athlete, as such it is not an argument against me that I slept with my phone on silent in order not to disturb a room mate.
Put simply I was available and willing to provide a sample for UKAD.
2nd ‘strike’ October 2015
Despite being reported as a ‘missed test’ this was in fact a ‘filing failure’
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.
A busy post world championship period meant I had no firm plans and as such was changing address and plans very quickly. I made a mistake. This was an honest mistake rather than trying to deceive anybody. A mistake that many athletes who are honest with themselves will admit to having made themselves. I was Tested by UKAD later that week and produced a negative result.
In December 2015 I met with UKAD and British cycling to discuss a support plan in order to avoid a 3rd potential ‘strike’
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 9th of June when UKAD tried to test me in my hour slot and I was not where I had stated I would be. Simon Thornton had left BC 3 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. If Simon was still in place the following oversight could have been prevented. My over night 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.
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. UKAD did not perceive my situation to be ‘extreme’ enough to alleviate me of a negligence charge. A physiatrist 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. I hope I have made it clear that family comes before cycling, I am not obsessively driven to success in cycling, I love my sport, but I would never cheat for it.
I currently have 1 filing failure and 1 missed test.
The reason this hasn’t been discussed publicly until now is because I had the right to a fair trial at CAS, it is clear sensationalised headlines have a detrimental effect to any legal case.
In the days following the revelations in the press my family and I have been the victim of some incredibly painful comments. I ask people to take a moment to put themselves in my shoes, I am an athlete trying to do my best, I am a clean athlete. I am the female road race world champion, I operate in a completely different environment to the majority of athletes in the testing pool. 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. I don’t wish to make excuses, i made one mistake which was noticed in a ‘spot check’ my second strike came at a time when anybody who lives for and loves their family would understand my oversight. It’s as simple as ticking the wrong box on a form.
I love sport and the values it represents, it hurts me to consider anybody questioning my performances. Integrity is something I strive for in every part of my life. I will hold my head high in Rio and do my best for Great Britain, 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.
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.”