Gold for Lizzie Armitstead in Rio would send Olympic sport further down road to Hell – Daily Mail

The most breathtaking thing about the Lizzie Armitstead affair is not the stupidity of Armitstead herself, who managed to miss three drugs tests in less than 10 months in the most important competitive year of her life, although that is truly breathtaking.

Nor is it the hypocrisy of British authorities, who recoiled in horror when the IOC failed to introduce a blanket ban on Russian competitors at Rio 2016 and then threw money at lawyers to get Armitstead off and allowed her to compete at these Olympics, although that, too, is breathtaking.

‘Imagine what we would be saying if she was Russian,’ said 2008 rowing Olympic gold medallist, Zac Purchase, when he heard the news.

Lizzie Armitstead, pictured arriving in Rio, is set to feature in the women's road race

Lizzie Armitstead, pictured arriving in Rio, is set to feature in the women’s road race

Armitstead (left) missed three drugs tests in the lead-up to the Olympic Games

Armitstead (left) missed three drugs tests in the lead-up to the Olympic Games

Well, we don’t need to imagine. We all know. We’d be saying a Russian cyclist who had missed three tests should not be allowed anywhere near the women’s road race start line alongside Copacabana Beach on Sunday. We’d be saying their presence in Rio was a sick joke.

Nor is the most breathtaking thing the suggestion, spread by those who seek to bully the truth away, that exposing Armitstead’s three missed tests somehow represents a witch-hunt, although for its complicity, its laziness and its brainlessness, that, too, is breathtaking.

Nor is it the assertion that, on the occasion of her disputed first missed test in Sweden, it was acceptable for the British world road race champion to have her mobile phone turned to silent during the hour she had nominated for her availability for testing under the wheareabouts rule. That is getting deep into Mo-Farah-I-couldn’t-hear-my-doorbell territory and is also breathtaking.

Armitstead and the rest of the British cycling team had been specifically warned that, if they were staying in a hotel, they should include room numbers in the information they give anti-doping authorities to track elite athletes.

Armitstead has been cleared to compete but victory for her would be bad for sport

Armitstead has been cleared to compete but victory for her would be bad for sport

Armitstead and her gang of apologists have been blaming everyone but the rider

UK Anti-Doping have been made a scapegoat for Armitstead's failings

Armitstead and her gang of apologists have been blaming everyone but the rider


All athletes must fill out an online form, on the Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS), detailing where they will be for one hour each day between 6am and 11pm.

Testers turn up at random at the given address and, if there is no immediate answer, stay for the full hour attempting to contact the athlete every 10-15 minutes.

If an athlete has failed to be available for testing on any given day at the location and time they specified — or are not where they said they would be — they will be deemed to have missed a test.

If an athlete misses three tests in the space of 12 months, that amounts to an anti-doping rule violation. which could mean up to a two-year ban.

The evidence so far suggests that did not happen in Sweden when the receptionist at Armitstead’s hotel refused to tell the doping control officer (DCO) which room she was in.

Serial apologists for British athletes who miss tests, like former heptathlete Kelly Sotherton, were angered by the notion that Armitstead’s mobile should not have been on silent. Sotherton said Armitstead had a right to sleep. Armitstead, who is one of the favourites for gold on Sunday, said she was being considerate to a room-mate.

Has Armitstead never heard of the do-not-disturb function on a phone? They have them now, you know. If your designated whereabouts hour starts at 6am, set your phone to come back on at 6am. It’s really very simple.

Armitstead should not have missed three tests and needs to accept responsibility

Armitstead should not have missed three tests and needs to accept responsibility


Sportsmail’s Matt Lawton revealed Lizzie Armitstead feared she would miss the Rio Olympics after UK doping officials tried to have the world champion cyclist banned last month.

The 27-year-old was facing up to a two-year ban after being charged last month by UK Anti-Doping for three ‘whereabouts’ failures in a 12-month period. 

But with the support of a legal team backed by British Cycling, Armitstead went up against UKAD at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on July 21 and successfully had the first of the three failures struck from her record, citing what CAS agreed was an administrative error by her accusers.

That has enabled the hugely gifted Armitstead to race in Rio on Sunday as one of the favourites for gold. 


So don’t insult our intelligence with this garbage at a time when Olympic sport is fighting for its very life. If you’ve got issues with an early morning call, nominate another hour for the testers to come. Nor is the most breathtaking thing the claim, mentioned over and over again by Armitstead, that because she was tested in competition the day after the missed Sweden test, it proves she’s clean.

Please stop repeating that because nobody who knows anything about doping buys into it. They know some drugs of choice can disappear from the system within 24 hours. For Armitstead, and others, to cite those facts in attempted mitigation is breathtaking.

Nor is it the idea that, because Armitstead claimed in her emotive 1,275-word statement of self-exoneration that her third missed test was the result of an unspecified family trauma, she should somehow be spared criticism, although that, too, is breathtaking.

The Team GB cyclist released a 1,275-word statement of self-exoneration this week

The Team GB cyclist released a 1,275-word statement of self-exoneration this week

Of course, Armitstead has a right to privacy about whatever happened and it is the sincere hope of anyone with a heart that she and her family are finding a way to heal after what they went through. But perhaps the quest for that privacy may not have been best served by her subsequently using that trauma as an excuse for a missed test.

Nor, finally, is the most breathtaking thing the realisation that all this would have remained a secret, unknown and hidden from the public, were it not for the journalism of the Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton.

In an era when some are trying to claim there is greater transparency in sport, the idea we can marry that with the systemic subterfuge that has surrounded Armitstead’s missed tests is also breathtaking.

But worse than all of this, more cynical, more arrogant, more calculating, more destructive, more damaging to the cause of clean sport, more selfish and more desperate is the way that in her quest for career survival, Armitstead and others have sought to make the drug-testers from UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) the scapegoats for her failings.

UK Anti-Doping have been made scapegoats for Armitstead's failings in recent weeks

UK Anti-Doping have been made scapegoats for Armitstead’s failings in recent weeks

The arrogance of it is hard to believe. ‘The DCO didn’t do what was reasonable or necessary to find me,’ said Armitstead in her spool of self-justification.

That’s right, apart from showing up at your hotel in Sweden at 6am and asking to be put through to your room, being refused, not knowing what your room number was because you hadn’t left it with the authorities as you’d been advised to do so, and then calling your mobile at the appointed time and getting no answer because you switched it on to silent. Apart from that, the doping control officer did not try at all.

Only in some twisted, parallel world is that the doping control officer’s fault but that appears to be the world in which the Court of Arbitration for Sport exists because that is the judgment they made. And so Armitstead blames everyone but herself (including British Cycling for not babying her extensively enough), and UKAD is vilified, patronised and ridiculed.

Armitstead should not win Olympic gold on Sunday - she should not be competing at all

Armitstead should not win Olympic gold on Sunday – she should not be competing at all

That is the worst thing of all about this horrible mess. UKAD — under-funded, under-staffed and fighting a grim battle against the cheats — are there to protect every athlete’s right to participate in clean sport. We’ve entrusted them with that. They’re the last line of defence.

So I’m sorry but it’s hard not to feel angry — really angry — when people like Armitstead and her gang of apologists seek to cover up their own mistakes and shortcomings by pouring scorn on the testers.

A week ago, I hoped Armitstead would win gold on Sunday. Now I hope she doesn’t. Armitstead shouldn’t be here. We all know that. Victory for her on Rio’s asphalt would just send Olympic sport further down the road to Hell.

With every writhing compromise the IOC make, with every extra Russian competitor allowed into the Olympics, Lord Coe’s strong leadership of the IAAF in imposing a blanket ban on Russia’s athletes looks more and more impressive. 

Coe had a wretched start to his tenure as IAAF president but he deserves much credit for the way he led the organisation in the run-up to Rio 2016. 

Lord Coe deserves much credit for the way he led the organisation in the run-up to Rio 2016

Lord Coe deserves much credit for the way he led the organisation in the run-up to Rio 2016

It is increasingly hard to understand why Sir Craig Reedie is allowed to remain as president of the World Anti-Doping Agency. 

His weakness, the latest examples of which were revealed in a scathing critique by WADA’s former chief investigator, Jack Robertson, last week, is an affront to the organisation and an impediment to their fight against drugs in sport.


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 unheard 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 schoolgirl I was introduced to the whereabouts system, nine 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 wholeheartedly support.

To add some background before I explain the specific details of my three ‘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 versus 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 banned substance.

I will present the facts of my three ‘strikes’.

Sweden: August 20, 2015

UKAD are allowed a maximum of two 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.

Last week:

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 athlete’s 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.

Second ‘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 third 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 June 9 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 three 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 overnight 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 psychiatrist 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.

To conclude:

I currently have one filing failure and one 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.


Write a Reply or Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.