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September 9, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
Speaking in the wake of Lizzie Armitstead’s three missed doping tests, Bradley Wiggins has expressed incredulity about his fellow Briton’s explanation.
“When you’re a professional athlete and you’re a world champion, there’s no excuse, because it’s your career,” the multiple Olympic gold medallist and 2012 Tour de France winner told the Guardian.
“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.”
Armitstead missed the La Course race in July, saying she wanted to keep safe for the Olympic Games, but the real reason for her absence was made public on August 1 when the Daily Mail revealed that she had been provisionally suspended.
She had missed three tests between August 20 2015 and June 9 of this year, causing a case to be opened by UK Anti Doping [UKAD].
Armitstead brought the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS] which, after a hearing on July 21, ruled that the first of those missed tests was invalid.
This decision was reached after Armitstead said that the tester had not made sufficient attempts to alert her as to a planned out of competition test. She was staying in a Swedish hotel during a UCI World Cup event and the tester arrived there early in the morning to collect samples.
The hotel refused to give the room number to the tester and while he unsuccessfully tried to reach Armitstead on her mobile phone, CAS ruled that he had not made sufficient efforts.
However Wiggins is unimpressed, saying that there was ‘no excuse’ for her being found wanting on three separate occasions.
“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,” he said. “If you ignore that and then you get another one, you end up having crisis meetings.”
He said that athletes are not alone in dealing with testing.
“You get a lot of support from UK Sport. They’re brilliant, actually. 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.”
In a personal statement released in August, Armistead said that her second missed test was what she termed a ‘filing failure’. She said that she made a mistake in stating where she would be, and accepted responsibility for the error.
She said that on June 9 she was again not where she had stated she would be. She cited ‘incredibly difficult’ personal family circumstances at the time and said that she forgot to change a section of the whereabouts 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.”
However Wiggins said that stating that cycling was not a priority at the time is both “ludicrous” and “ridiculous”.
His questioning of Armitstead is notable due to his standing within British sport and also his long history as part of British Cycling.
Former world champion Nicole Cooke also appeared to question Armitstead when she underlined how important it was to follow anti-doping rules to the letter and said it is relatively simple to notify testers of any last minute changes.
“I have also been asked if I have ever missed any out of competition testing. My first test was in 1998 and last in 2012,” she said in a statement released on her website on August 2.
“In 14 year of tests I have one recorded missed out of competition test. Therefore in order to broach the “three missed tests” rule my career would have to be extrapolated to run for three times as long or 42 years, not one year, as the rules currently stand.”
CAS is yet to release the reasoned decision pertaining to the Armitstead case.
Meanwhile, also on the subject of testing, Wiggins told the Guardian that he considered there to be an element of sour grapes in other nations’ doubts about British success at the Olympic Games.
He said that he believes blood doping is now “nigh on impossible”, adding that “I don’t think anyone could get away with it.”
As regards the British Olympic medal haul, a dominance which came despite modest showings in recent world championships, he said there is no secret.
“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.’ 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.”