I have been asked by various media outlets for my views on Lizzie Armitstead missing three out of competition drug tests. My views on doping are well documented. When I made my retirement statement in January 2013 I knew there would be a significant proportion of the professional peloton, male and female, that would be critical of my stance regarding dopers – that they were stealing (in the criminal sense) the livelihoods of innocent people.
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. 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. Previously the international regulations sought to ban those who missed three tests in 18 months but they have been relaxed and now it is just three in 1 year. Completing the ADAMS identification system is a necessary part of the life of a professional athlete, but the athlete is at liberty to select the time during the day they make themselves available. Also, in the event of life getting in the way, the system does allow for athletes to notify the testing authorities by either by sending a text message or ringing a hotline up to one minute before the one hour window opens and changing it.
When I brought this up with UKAD as too permissive a regime, allowing the drug cheats too much latitude, I was advised that regular late changes to availability would be noted and would then draw more targeted testing on that individual. I hope that is the case.
Many athletes do take the testing regime seriously. My missed test was my own fault. My car needed two new tyres and I went out and had them fitted. Even though I later showed the authorities the time on the tyre fitment till receipt, it was my duty to be there, available at the place I said I would be available and my missed test rightly stood on my record. I learnt from it, as others do. Mark Cavendish missed a test and stated “It was my mistake. I was with a film crew for the BBC and Giro d’Italia on Mount Etna. It was a simple, genuine administrative error. Of course I totally understand the importance of testing in sport…… It’s part of the job and it’s my job to make sure I don’t miss another”. Chris Froome also missed a test. In his, case Chris stated “the authorities pitched up at seven and the hotel staff actually wouldn’t give them access to our room and also refused to let them call up. So when we came down for breakfast at 8.30, they basically just said to us: ‘OK, the anti-doping guys were here to test you this morning but it’s our hotel policy not to let them disturb our clients or let anyone disturb our clients’. So that was a hugely frustrating situation for me. I did appeal to try and explain the circumstances to the authorities but at the end of the day I take full responsibility for that case……,I should have been more proactive in letting the hotel know this was a possibility that I could be tested. I’ve certainly learned my lesson there. I’ve stayed in hotels all over the world and I’ve been tested all over the world without any issues at all. Unfortunately I just didn’t see this one coming but it’s opened my eyes and I’m definitely going to be more pro-active in the future. It’s always the athlete’s responsibility to make sure he or she is available for testing.”
That is what all athletes want and sport needs. Fair rules to be applied fairly, at all times, to all athletes.