World Champion British Cyclist Armistead cleared of doping violation and free to compete at the Olympics
9 August 2016 by Jason Torrance
On the eve of an Olympic Games dominated by the Russian doping scandal, the last thing the International Olympic Committee needed was another doping headline. That is what they got, however, when it was announced that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had cleared the British World Champion, Olympic silver medallist, and, prior to the event, one of the favourites for the women’s road race, Lizzie Armistead of an anti-doping rule violation.
Armistead was charged by UKAD back in July for a whereabouts violation and had been serving a suspension since. A violation for a whereabouts failure is not a common violation and also carries a more lenient starting sanction than the other anti-doping rule violations. Arguably the most high profile athlete to have committed a violation of this type is former Olympic, World and Commonwealth champion Christine Ohuruogu.
Simply, this violation occurs when an athlete misses any combination of three missed tests and/or filing failures within a twelve month period. Only athletes on a Registered Testing Pool have to provide whereabouts information, so logically it follows that this violation can only be committed by those athletes who are on a Registered Testing Pool, whether that is an International or a National Registered Testing Pool (IRTP or NRTP). Generally, elite athletes, particularly those in Armistead’s position of heading to a major event such as the Olympics, will be in one or both of an IRTP or NRTP, depending on the rules of the particular International Federation involved. Other athletes who may be in a testing pool could include those who are being targeted for a certain reason.
Being in a testing pool means that an athlete must provide a one hour slot each day where they can be found in order that they can be tested. If a Doping Control Officer arrives at any time during that one hour slot and the athlete is not available, this will be classed as a missed test. A filing failure occurs when an athlete does not accurately complete their whereabouts information so they cannot be located for testing, or does not update the whereabouts information to ensure it remains accurate.
In the UK, when an athlete commits either a suspected missed test or filing failure, the circumstances are independently reviewed and the athlete is given an opportunity to provide an explanation, which will be taken into account. If it is still found that the circumstances amount to a missed test or filing failure, the athlete will have a strike against their name. They then have the opportunity to appeal each individual strike. It is a combination of three of these that amount to an anti-doping rule violation. Given the administrative nature of this violation, once an athlete is on 2 strikes, UKAD will provided increased support to assist an athlete to try and avoid them receiving a third strike.
CAS over-ruled Armistead’s first missed test, meaning that testers arrived at her allocated one hour slot and were unable to test her. It was found that the doping control officer had “not followed required procedures nor made reasonable attempts to locate Armistead”. The second strike was a filing failure, whilst the third was another missed test because of an “emergency change of plans due to a serious illness within her family”. Armistead came very close to receiving up to a 2 year ban from sport and missing the Olympics. As it transpired, she did not win a medal in the road race, finishing in 5th place following an horrific crash by Annemiek van Vleuten.
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