The 27-year-old, from Otley, who will feature in the road race on Sunday, says she was “naive” in not challenging her first missed drugs test until the threat of a suspension loomed large.
And she was left in turmoil under the threat of a two-year ban until the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled she was free to compete in Rio as the first of three whereabouts ‘failures’ was scrubbed from her record.
“I felt like I was standing on a cliff and I was going to fall off the edge,” she told the Daily Mail.
“It was more than just missing the Olympics in Rio. It was everything else. It was what was going on with my family.
“I was more concerned about my reputation and people’s understanding of it.
“I could have been banned. That’s what I was most scared about. All the hard work being for nothing.
“It was basically my livelihood and my sport being taken away from me. It was everything. A black line.
“The hardest thing about this situation is that there will be people who will always have doubts about my performances.”
Armitstead insists she is a clean athlete.
She had faced the prospect of a lengthy suspension, and missing the Olympics, after incurring three violations in 12 months pertaining to her whereabouts for drugs tests.
The first missed test, on August 20 2015 while she was in Sweden ahead of a race, was declared void by CAS after it ruled UK Anti-Doping’s control officer had failed to follow procedure.
UKAD is awaiting the reasoned decision from CAS.
UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’d like to think that we are a reasonable organisation and we don’t bring cases against athletes unless we see reason for doing so.”
Armitstead told the Daily Mail: “I did think about it (challenging the first ‘failure’).
“But the reason I didn’t was because it was my first strike and it was very close to the World Championships, so I was travelling to America.
“I also didn’t have the legal advice. It felt very much them against me. I was very naive. I went ahead to the World Championships and I didn’t want the distraction.”
Armitstead won the world title in Richmond, in the United States, last September.
Athletes must make themselves available for testing for one hour each day and inform testers of their location.
Armitstead was charged by UKAD with three whereabouts failures on July 11, leading to a suspension pending disciplinary action.
She 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.
The second ‘failure’ was an administrative error 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 the later two faults, but successfully appealed to CAS over the first missed test.
Armitstead said the doping control officer did not identify himself to hotel staff and was unable to get hold of her, as her phone was on silent.
She added: “It was found that he did not do a good enough job in trying to find me. I was the leader of the World Cup, I was tested the next day, and that sample was negative.”