Lizzie Armitstead cleared for Rio despite missed drug tests
Team GB cyclist missed three tests in 12 months, but has won an appeal against a two-year ban ahead of Olympics
British world road cycling champion Lizzie Armitstead will be able to compete in the Rio Olympics after she won her appeal against an anti-doping rule violation.
The 27-year-old Yorkshire rider, who won silver at the women's road race event in London four years ago, had faced a ban after missing three out-of-competition tests. The UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) provisionally suspended the world champion on 11 July this year after she failed to attend a third doping control in 12 months.
Armitstead missed her first doping control at a World Cup event in Sweden on 20 August, 2015. The second was in October last year and the third was on 9 June this year after what the rider described as a "an emergency change of plans due to a serious illness within her family". While Armitstead did not appeal against the second and third controls she contested the first missed test in Sweden last summer saying that the correct procedure had not been followed.
A British Cycling-funded legal team backed Armitstead in her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), reports Cycling Weekly. It says her team managed to show that the UK Anti-Doping official did not make sufficient efforts to contact the rider while she slept in a hotel last August.
Armitstead submitted to a test the following day after a UCI Women’s World Cup event in Sweden. However, Cycling Weekly says that the second and third failures remain on the record though Armitstead claims the second "was a filing fault on her part on the Anti-Doping Administration and Management System".
In a statement released after her successful appeal, Armitstead said: "I have always been and will always be a clean athlete and have been vocal in my anti-doping stance throughout my career." Criticising UKAD for "not following proper procedure", the cyclist issued a plea for better guidelines for tests although she acknowledged her own role in the incident.
"I understand how important it is to be vigilant in my role as a professional athlete and realise the potential implications this could have had," she said. “I am very much looking forward to putting this situation behind me and firmly focusing on Rio again after what has been an extremely difficult time for myself and my family."
UKAD issued a statement of their own in which they said: "We recognise that mistakes do happen and plans can change at short notice, which is why an athlete can accrue a combination of three missed tests or filing failures in 12 months under the World Anti-Doping Code. But athletes have a responsibility to ensure they support and follow the system, or they risk a possible two-year ban."
The news that Armitstead is now free to compete for Team GB in the women's road race at the Olympics in Rio on Sunday was welcomed by most in the UK, although as one Cycling Weekly reader noted: "If Lizzie were Russian but you kept all the other details the same, I'm sure the press reaction in the UK would be a fair bit more cynical."