Olympics: Reprieve for Lizzie Armitstead is under the microscope

Lizzie Armitstead is able to compete in Rio after winning her appeal.
Lizzie Armitstead is able to compete in Rio after winning her appeal.
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Lizzie Armitstead faces awkward questions following her Olympic reprieve which has raised the eyebrows of other athletes.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the Great Britain cyclist, who competes in the road race on Sunday, was free to take part in Rio after the first of three whereabouts failures was scrubbed from her record.

Otley’s Armitstead had faced the prospect of a two-year ban, and missing the Olympics, after incurring three violations pertaining to her whereabouts for drugs tests.

The 27-year-old subsequently appealed to CAS successfully but other athletes have questioned the circumstances surrounding Armitstead’s situation.

Former British Olympic rowing gold medallist Zac Purchase posted on Twitter: “Given huge amount of resources@their disposal, having multiple missed tests/filing failure is a monumental cockup!

“Imagine what we would be saying if she was Russian... #NotWorthIt #KeepSportClean.”

Canadian three-time former Olympic mountain biker Geoff Kabush tweeted: “1st test understandable but I’d be hyper aware about missing 2nd. If I missed 2nd there is no chance I’d miss 3rd???

“So many questions. How is World Champ suspended for 3 weeks and no one knows?”

Kabush then asked why British Cycling funded an appeal, but the national federation has clarified that was not the case.

Instead, British Cycling sought its own legal advice about Armitstead’s position on its podium programme and Rio selection and shared the detail with her lawyer, with Armitstead making the decision to go to CAS and funding the cost of the appeal.

Armitstead was Britain’s first medallist of London 2012 four years ago with silver in the road race on The Mall and is one of the favourites for the same event in Rio on Sunday.

CAS ruled in favour of her appeal after finding UK Anti-Doping’s control officer had failed to follow procedure and her August, 2015 missed test was declared void.

UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said her organisation was awaiting the reasoned decision from CAS, but said: “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.

“We are awaiting the ‘Reasoned Decision’ from the CAS panel as to why the first whereabouts failure was not upheld.”

A British Olympic Association spokesman said: “With competition starting in just four days, we are glad this matter has been resolved satisfactorily ahead of the Olympic Games.”

Athletes must make themselves available for testing for one hour each day and inform testers of their location.

Armitstead has two further missed tests on her record and a further absence would lead to a rule violation and sanction.

She was charged by UKAD with three whereabouts failures on July 11, leading to a suspension pending disciplinary action.

The first came at a World Cup event in Sweden on August 20, 2015. The second was an administrative failure on October 5, 2015 and the third was a missed test on June 9, 2016 following “an emergency change of plans due to a serious illness within her family”.

Armitstead did not dispute two faults, but successfully appealed over the other. She was tested a day after the first missed test, following the race in Sweden.

Armitstead had been cagey on Monday when questioned on her absence from recent races. She was a late withdrawal from La Course by Le Tour, the women’s race which took place on July 24, when the Tour de France concluded in Paris.

She expressed relief at the CAS finding and said in a statement: “I have always been and will always be a clean athlete and have been vocal in my anti-doping stance throughout my career.

“I am pleased that CAS has accepted my position, having provided detailed information demonstrating the situation around my strikes.”

Christine Ohuruogu, the 2008 Olympic 400m champion, was banned for a year in 2006 following three missed tests.

Chris Froome last June admitted to a missed test after a UKAD doping control officer arrived unannounced at an exclusive Italian hotel and was not permitted to contact the cyclist, a paying guest.

Mark Cavendish missed one in April 2011 when filming on Mount Etna after forgetting to update his whereabouts.