Hello Operator

Marco Pantani had Armstrong on the ropes. It was the Col de Joux Plane in the 2000 Tour de France and the only time Pharmy was in real, genuine difficulty during any of his “seven” Tours. So he did what any reasonable rider would do: he got on the radio with his team boss and demanded he call his coach and renowned doping genius Michele Ferrari to find out precisely how long Pantani could sustain his effort. Ferrari crunched some numbers on his custom Effort Finder-Outer Machine and got back with the good news that Pantani couldn’t hold the pace to the finish.

The problem Batman had with The Joker was that Batman was rational and The Joker was insane. And insane people don’t always do what rational people expect them to do. Like having a plan, for instance. Or wanting to make it to the finish at all. Lance wasn’t Batman – not by a stretch – and Pantani wasn’t insane. But the point is, they weren’t thinking about the race the same way. Armstrong wanted to win the Tour de France but was a stubborn ass who was too proud to let the world’s best climber drop him. Pantani, on the other hand, had already lost everything and been to Hell and back; he had nothing to lose and was more than willing to sacrifice his own Tour if it meant he could fuck with Pharmstrong, even for a bit.

So he rode until the lights went out and climbed into the team car. Ciao. Armstrong was left holding the bag. Or, rather, not holding a mussette with any food in it. Bon jour, Monsieur avec le Hammer. Comment allez vous?

Cyclists have always used whatever dubious means they can find in order to gain an advantage, this is not news. It is only natural in a sport as demanding as this, which is not to say it is by any means excusable. But cheating has been woven into the fabric of our sport since the earliest days; in the first Tours de France several riders were disqualified for getting tows from teammates via cable and jumping on trains to rest the legs and gain a few extra kilometers over their rivals in the process.

When Greg LeMond helped pioneer the use of radios between riders and the team car, I hardly think he imagined his nemesis using the technology to contact the most notorious doping mastermind in the sport in order to gain a mid-race performance update from Italy. I don’t know why that feels so much worse than regular doping. It almost feels like putting a motor in your bottom bracket or something.

Motors? Now we’re getting far-fetched.

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90 Replies to “Hello Operator”

  1. Just watched the Pantani documentary for the first time the other day. Depressing and sad.  Netflix it or rent it on Amazon Prime if you haven’t seen it.  Well worth the time.  It touches on another tradition: raise your hero up and praise him like a demi-god; then when he starts to win too much, turn on him like rabid dogs.  (M. Fignon, please call your office.)

  2. Yes, I saw that film.  It is a great documentary.  Tragic story.  I don’t like that he was doping, but I feel really bad for him and for those who knew him.  Was it LeMan who said that when he met Pantani he was surprised to find that he had the eyes of a young boy?  I cannot help but feel that for all that was happening at that time, Pantani was just an idealistic young man who loved to race his bike.  The ugly side of the professional cycling business is what destroyed him.  That guy had class and personality to spare, didn’t he? R.I.P. Marco.

  3. @Oli

    @MTS

    Pharmacy + Armstrong = Pharmy

    I think he was trying to be facetious.  Before I say it was facile instead, I’ll give @MTS the benefit of the doubt and assume he doesn’t see it the way I do.  Namely, as two bookends of the same mess.  Yes they both used performance enhancing substances (love ya Marco, but let’s keep it real).  So that said, on the one hand we have Pharmstrong who pushed to find new ways to dope, and didn’t just observe omerta, didn’t just persistently lie about it, he outright went after anyone who might lift the curtain with hurricane force; and on the other hand we have Pantani who fell in line, did what he needed to do, all the while probably succumbing to the pressure from sources we may never fully know.  These guys came from two entirely different worlds.  One was a playmaker with an ego the size of his home state, the other set out to live his dream and ended up a pawn.  I can’t help but feel bad for Il Pirata while still feeling disdain for COTHO.

    This reminds me. We need an evanescent riders feature on Evgeni Berzin.  Boy did that guy ever get wrecked when he crossed over from the Iron Curtain.

  4. Great article again. The only problem I have with it is that I’ve been trying to wipe my memory banks of those tours and the oxygen thief who finished first in them. I also find it fifer and forgive Phil Liggett for his breathless bloviating commentary which   only ramped up further as the doping evidence mounted – along with Armstrong’s psychopathic bullying. Worst of all, he’s still claiming he’s a deserving winner and asking us to believe he’s hard done by. It’s like the guy who stole your prized bike ten years ago turns up at your door to ask for forgiveness and understanding – he’s still got your bike and won’t give it back, but he’d like you to feel sorry for him and by the way, can he borrow your new bike? Cheating I get. Pantani was a cheat. But he was also a loveable flawed human being. Lance might qualify as flawed – that’s as close as he comes to the rest of Pantani.

  5. @Clank

    Cheating I get. Pantani was a cheat. But he was also a loveable flawed human being. Lance might qualify as flawed – that’s as close as he comes to the rest of Pantani.

    That’s a pretty good analysis of why we can love Pantani and Ullrich but hate Armstrong. I guess it’s along the lines of ‘Love the person, hate the crime.’

  6. Hey,

    I really enjoy these articles and thank everyone who comments on them, particularly in respects to Pantani.

    I had zoned out of cycling around the mid 90’s to the 2010’s and see Pantani as a hero I can aspire to be like and hopefully, one day, ride like.

    Hey, I even shave my hair and have a Mercatone Uno jersey.

    So thank you for helping enlighten me.

    Lunga vita Pantani,

     

  7. @DVMR

    Pharmy +/- doping = no class.

    Marco +/- doping = pure class.

    Simple as.

    You mean dope yourself until your eyeballs are poping out of your skull on stalks and the only time you can sleep is whilst on the rollers churning the sludge that your blood has become as long as you do it with panache and without tearing out the throats of anyone who dares to question you?

    We’re a fickle bunch when it comes to choosing our heroes. I don’t have a problem with that but I can’t be doing with anyone who thinks its a black and white issue or says they’d never have doped.

  8. I just watched the flick. I didn’t much following cycling back in those days. The Festina affair, Dr Ferrari, Pantani expulsion from Giro all was never on my radar. And doesn’t it contrast so much with baseball? We can go MLB right now and look at official history and pull up the home run records and there’s McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Rodriguez, Bonds, etc. I don’t even know how to really explain the difference. I just know that the way the two sports handled the sordid past, how the athletes handled and how fans express sentiment all seem to me to be awfully different.

    Back to the documentary: creepy and tragic are the the words that come to my mind. In a way I think I’m glad I wasn’t a fan back then.

     

  9. @chris

    @DVMR

    Pharmy +/- doping = no class.

    Marco +/- doping = pure class.

    Simple as.

    You mean dope yourself until your eyeballs are poping out of your skull on stalks and the only time you can sleep is whilst on the rollers churning the sludge that your blood has become as long as you do it with panache and without tearing out the throats of anyone who dares to question you?

    We’re a fickle bunch when it comes to choosing our heroes. I don’t have a problem with that but I can’t be doing with anyone who thinks its a black and white issue or says they’d never have doped.

    Not quite. What I mean is that Marco was a naturally classy rider with or without pharmacological enhancement. Whereas Cotho was not.

  10. Hello Operator – only recall is to this

    Like to see some side by side vision of former years, Pharmstrong years, and current years overlaid on the same climb for comparisons.

     

  11. I tend to be mostly indifferent towards either Armstrong or Pantani.  Mostly because I missed seeing Pantani when he was at his best and have no real frame of reference, and Armstrong has just transformed into a pathetic example of a human being.  In reality, many of those we admire have flaws, some are more seriously flawed than others.

  12. I can only blame the riders to a point. Yes they for the most part know what they are doing or taking (or have an idea), but I feel the main portion of the blame and heft of the responsibility should lay with the trainers, managers, owners, team doctors even some parents….anyone over the age of being a responsible adult for allowing and in some cases pushing PEDs on kid athletes. Or if not pushing the PEDs, pushing the need to win at all costs to be so high that the kid looks to do anything to appease the adult/mentor of his or her life at that time.

    Then, if and when the rider becomes part of the decision making process after they reach a certain age and maturity level yes- the onus of the blame can shift to him or her.

    Its how a person conducts themselves after they are caught /investigated/ facing allegations that unfortunately in the way of superstars this may be the only time you get to see their real “face” not their public smiles, kissing babies and shaking kids hands, but their true “yes at the core I’m a cut throat do anything to win bastard” face, or sadly the face of an athlete/victim who has been caught up in something so big like a rip-current, all they wanted to do was go for a swim and they ended up several miles away..if they survived at all..

     

  13. @Dean C

    but I feel the main portion of the blame and heft of the responsibility should lay with the trainers, managers, owners, team doctors even some parents…

    Ah, the parents. Willy Voet was practically disowned by his father when he stopped doping as an amateur rider.

    My view is that Pantani was particularly susceptible to the benefits of EPO, perhaps more than most of his peers, but we loved him for his vulnerability and his tendency to attack so frequently. Armstrong, on the other hand, was a bully. He ruined lives, careers and businesses with his savage defence of “the lie”, and is worthy of all derision heaped upon him. That said i still see him as a seven time tour winner and think the “no winner” stance in the record books is stupid.

  14. @Steve Trice

    That said i still see him as a seven time tour winner and think the “no winner” stance in the record books is stupid.

    What if, by contrast, there were a series of Tours marked “No Winner” because we found out later the guy had a motor in his BB those years?  Would the “No Winner” comment still be stupid?

    Different kinds of rules, but agree or disagree, they are still the rules.  We can argue their merits and validity until the cows come home, but until they’re amended or revoked, we are within reason to expect people follow the rules as written.

  15. @litvi

    @Steve Trice

    That said i still see him as a seven time tour winner and think the “no winner” stance in the record books is stupid.

    What if, by contrast, there were a series of Tours marked “No Winner” because we found out later the guy had a motor in his BB those years? Would the “No Winner” comment still be stupid

    No, that would be perfectly fine as long as those Tours that were also won by people who were found to have had motors in their bottom brackets, in 1996, 97, 98 etc for instance, were marked the same way.

  16. @Steve Trice

    @litvi

    @Steve Trice

    That said i still see him as a seven time tour winner and think the “no winner” stance in the record books is stupid.

    What if, by contrast, there were a series of Tours marked “No Winner” because we found out later the guy had a motor in his BB those years? Would the “No Winner” comment still be stupid

    No, that would be perfectly fine as long as those Tours that were also won by people who were found to have had motors in their bottom brackets, in 1996, 97, 98 etc for instance, were marked the same way.

    I think we’re on the same page.  I guess you’re saying more Tours should be marked “No Winner” now that the cat’s out of the bag.  Trouble is… how do we do that?  We’ve already been down the road of Le Sénat de France releasing old blood tests.  It’s gets murky from there.

     

  17. @litvi

    @Steve Trice

    @litvi

    @Steve Trice

    That said i still see him as a seven time tour winner and think the “no winner” stance in the record books is stupid.

    What if, by contrast, there were a series of Tours marked “No Winner” because we found out later the guy had a motor in his BB those years? Would the “No Winner” comment still be stupid

    No, that would be perfectly fine as long as those Tours that were also won by people who were found to have had motors in their bottom brackets, in 1996, 97, 98 etc for instance, were marked the same way.

    I think we’re on the same page. I guess you’re saying more Tours should be marked “No Winner” now that the cat’s out of the bag. Trouble is… how do we do that? We’ve already been down the road of Le Sénat de France releasing old blood tests. It’s gets murky from there.

    I reckon it got murky long before that.    Its quite easy really,  just like the recent case of the olympic walkers.  Gold medal given to Australia retrospectively.  Same could quite easily apply.   The only drama is how far down the list would you need to go ?

  18. @litvi @barracuda It’s the uneven handed application of a rule that is stupid. Most of us know the back stories to the Tours, we also know why they didn’t promote the second placed riders to winners as they did in 2006 and 2010. When I hear a mention of the 2002 Tour, I don’t think “ooo, nobody won that”, I think “ah yes, one of the Tours won by the cheating bully”. It’s also stupid that the same organisation didn’t strip him off his Dauphine wins. To me it’s plain daft, in time this will be seen in the same light as the Roger Maris asterisk, and should have just been left.

  19. @Steve Trice

    @litvi @barracuda It’s the uneven handed application of a rule that is stupid. Most of us know the back stories to the Tours, we also know why they didn’t promote the second placed riders to winners as they did in 2006 and 2010. When I hear a mention of the 2002 Tour, I don’t think “ooo, nobody won that”, I think “ah yes, one of the Tours won by the cheating bully”. It’s also stupid that the same organisation didn’t strip him off his Dauphine wins. To me it’s plain daft, in time this will be seen in the same light as the Roger Maris asterisk, and should have just been left.

    I think you’re right.  The stigma of an asterisk next to the name that must not be spoken stays on as a reminder, and stains COTHO’s legacy.  With no pronoun to pin it on, the mystery behind “No Winner” puts a stain on the Tour’s name.

    [BTW it’s the Barry Bonds asterisk you’re after… Maris just had more games in a season than Ruth, so the commissioner(s) thought 61 was not a “real” new record.  Bonds (among others) got his asterisk because he used.]

  20. @Barracuda

    @litvi

    @Steve Trice

    @litvi

    @Steve Trice

    That said i still see him as a seven time tour winner and think the “no winner” stance in the record books is stupid.

    What if, by contrast, there were a series of Tours marked “No Winner” because we found out later the guy had a motor in his BB those years? Would the “No Winner” comment still be stupid

    No, that would be perfectly fine as long as those Tours that were also won by people who were found to have had motors in their bottom brackets, in 1996, 97, 98 etc for instance, were marked the same way.

    I think we’re on the same page. I guess you’re saying more Tours should be marked “No Winner” now that the cat’s out of the bag. Trouble is… how do we do that? We’ve already been down the road of Le Sénat de France releasing old blood tests. It’s gets murky from there.

    I reckon it got murky long before that. Its quite easy really, just like the recent case of the olympic walkers. Gold medal given to Australia retrospectively. Same could quite easily apply. The only drama is how far down the list would you need to go ?

    Yeah… is the Lanterne Rouge too far?  Not far enough?  Depressing.  Plus, how wide do you have to go?  Docs?  Soigneurs? Mechs?  DS? Owners?  Sponsors?  Race Directors and Commissioners who turned a blind eye?

  21. @Barracuda

    @brett

    And now we have Lizzie.

    All accidental of course.

    Just got the dates mixed up.

    Of course. And we know the British don’t dope, just like the Aussies, and the Kiwis…

    *She’s just pulled out the “most tested athlete in the world” line!

  22. What the athletes have to deal with as I understand it: always letting them know where you are at any time, showing up at your house or hotel at any time, giving up blood and urine on demand at any time and frequently… one day in the future we’ll look back at this and say how pathetic that must have been. Sure, it’s being the managed I suppose the best way people know how to manage right now. And athletes that want to compete on a level playing field have to participate in this sh**ty part of the biz. I have no idea what technology will come along or how sentiment will change towards medical and pharmeceutical technology in sports. But it really, really would suck to have to put up with that as an athlete.

  23. @brett

    @Barracuda

    @brett

    And now we have Lizzie.

    All accidental of course.

    Just got the dates mixed up.

    Of course. And we know the British don’t dope, just like the Aussies, and the Kiwis…

    *She’s just pulled out the “most tested athlete in the world” line!

    This is why the COTHO can never be forgiven. We can no longer trust or believe anything someone accused says, because the line we were fed for a decade by that piece of shit.

    -Eddie

  24. @EBruner

    @brett

    @Barracuda

    @brett

    And now we have Lizzie.

    All accidental of course.

    Just got the dates mixed up.

    Of course. And we know the British don’t dope, just like the Aussies, and the Kiwis…

    *She’s just pulled out the “most tested athlete in the world” line!

    This is why the COTHO can never be forgiven. We can no longer trust or believe anything someone accused says, because the line we were fed for a decade by that piece of shit.

    -Eddie

    The Armistead Affair is very saddening. I really had respect for her and as has been mentioned by several of her competitors, you miss one, you damn well don’t miss two. If you miss two, you really don’t miss three. Armistead isn’t some rookie. Even if they were all innocent misses, she not only knows the consequences, she knows the perceptions.

  25. @Barracuda

    @brett

    And now we have Lizzie.

    All accidental of course.

    Just got the dates mixed up.

    According to this the first missed test was down to the tester walking away when the hotel staff wouldn’t let him in. You can’t blame Lizzie for that.

  26. @chris

    @Barracuda

    @brett

    And now we have Lizzie.

    All accidental of course.

    Just got the dates mixed up.

    According to this the first missed test was down to the tester walking away when the hotel staff wouldn’t let him in. You can’t blame Lizzie for that.

    Yeah but as has been said, she knew that was down as a missed test – which she didn’t challenge at the time – and yet she went ahead and managed to miss two more.

    I don’t think she has missed them because she was glowing and wanted to avoid a test – I agree it is probably cock up more than conspiracy. And before people say that’s national bias I would argue that there are some countries where I’m prepared to give the benefit of the doubt e.g. UK, France, Germany, Australia and others where I’m not e.g. Russia, Kenya, Jamaica, Spain. That’s based on accumulated evidence and the rigour of national anti-doping strategies.

    And that’s where Lizzie’s incident is very disappointing. I’m prepared to believe she wasn’t doing anything wrong but in missing further tests she has shown a complete disregard for anti-doping efforts and as a world champion and national representative she should be setting a better example.

  27. @chris

    @Barracuda

    @brett

    And now we have Lizzie.

    All accidental of course.

    Just got the dates mixed up.

    According to this the first missed test was down to the tester walking away when the hotel staff wouldn’t let him in. You can’t blame Lizzie for that.

    So Armitstead says. If I was being facetious I’d say “how does she know if she was asleep”. Either way it doesn’t explain why she didn’t challenge it straight away. More alarming is the timing of the missed tests, not to mention the distinct lack of sympathy for her “errors” from her fellow athletes.

  28. @litvi

    @Steve Trice

    @litvi @barracuda It’s the uneven handed application of a rule that is stupid. Most of us know the back stories to the Tours, we also know why they didn’t promote the second placed riders to winners as they did in 2006 and 2010. When I hear a mention of the 2002 Tour, I don’t think “ooo, nobody won that”, I think “ah yes, one of the Tours won by the cheating bully”. It’s also stupid that the same organisation didn’t strip him off his Dauphine wins. To me it’s plain daft, in time this will be seen in the same light as the Roger Maris asterisk, and should have just been left.

    I think you’re right. The stigma of an asterisk next to the name that must not be spoken stays on as a reminder, and stains COTHO’s legacy. With no pronoun to pin it on, the mystery behind “No Winner” puts a stain on the Tour’s name.

    [BTW it’s the Barry Bonds asterisk you’re after… Maris just had more games in a season than Ruth, so the commissioner(s) thought 61 was not a “real” new record. Bonds (among others) got his asterisk because he used.]

    I didn’t know about the Barry Bonds asterisk tbh, but I have just discovered that the Maris one never existed at all, so Bonds it is!

  29. @ChrisO @Steve Trice She’s undoubtedly fucked up after the incident and her other two missed tests are inexcusable (or just one of them if it is true that she’d been caught up in a family emergency) but having read of the lengths other testers go to to get their man (or girl), the fault of the first missed is down to the tester.

    Sounds like the parcel delivery twat who stuck a “While You Were Out” note through my door whilst I was just about to open the door. No knock or anything.

    It would be interesting to know how many missed tests happen. Loads? I assume we only hear about them when there are three of them in a year. If that’s the case and Lizzie shouldn’t have go the first then is a complete non issue until she gets another one less than a year after the second.

     

  30. @chris

    Do we actually know what lengths the tester did, or didn’t, go to? CAS haven’t actually published their findings (unless I missed them).

  31. Genuine question here. Wouldn’t testers have the phone # of the athlete? In the Armistead hotel case (same thing apparently happened to Froome where hotel staff would let the testers up to his room) they could have called her. Also, wouldn’t a responsible athlete tell front desk staff “hey, I’m an athlete and I might be dope tested while I’m here. If men with credentials show up, please call my room.” Given the serious consequences, you’d think the athlete would take all appropriate and reasonable measures to ensure tests aren’t missed.

  32. @Steve Trice

    No we don’t but that was what was reported (secondhand) in the CT article.

    @wis

    I’ve no idea what the rules actually require of an athlete beyond updating their whereabouts information, but if that’s all that is required I’d leave the rest of it up to the tester.

    If it was a team hotel, I can’t imagine it would be that hard to find someone who would understand the importance of contacting the required rider.

     

  33. They tried to call her phone but it was on silent so as not to disturb the person she was sharing the room with.

    And apparently calling a phone is not an accepted method of contact anyway i.e. it doesn’t count as an attempt to contact the athlete. They have to be physically at the place they nominated at that time.

    Yes it seems odd that staff wouldn’t let them up but think about it. A big hotel, hundreds of guests, changes of shift, front-desk staff who are given instructions by their management. Do they let in anybody who turns up and flashes a card at that them – they probably have no idea what anti-doping is. What if it was a celebrity who wanted privacy and some stalker or photographer poses as an official of something or other. Easier to just say no.

     

  34. @ChrisO

    They tried to call her phone but it was on silent so as not to disturb the person she was sharing the room with.

    And apparently calling a phone is not an accepted method of contact anyway i.e. it doesn’t count as an attempt to contact the athlete. They have to be physically at the place they nominated at that time.

    Yes it seems odd that staff wouldn’t let them up but think about it. A big hotel, hundreds of guests, changes of shift, front-desk staff who are given instructions by their management. Do they let in anybody who turns up and flashes a card at that them – they probably have no idea what anti-doping is. What if it was a celebrity who wanted privacy and some stalker or photographer poses as an official of something or other. Easier to just say no.

    I hear you and I’m just being devil’s advocate here, but when a team checks in, we’re talking what? 15 people or more? You tell senior mgmt at the hotel who you are and what might transpire, ie drug testers showing up. Senior team management then tell hotel mgmt that if someone shows up saying they are a tester, team management are called to go and verify. I imagine an athlete can say “I’m staying in hotel X in Y city on Z date. I doubt they’ll know the room # in advance. It’s in team mgmt’s best interests that riders don’t miss tests.

  35. It’s all too convoluted for me. All of this testing goes on across 17 different sports, and to maybe thousands of athletes, all year round. To me LA’s excuses are full of holes and bordering on desperate, but that’s just an opinion. On the other hand the facts, few as they are, aren’t open to debate, and as the first and third “offences” came a few days before big races that she won, I’ll reserve the right to be sceptical and disappointed. I’ve followed the pro side of this sport for too long to not suspect fire when the smoke starts rising.?

  36. @Steve Trice

    It’s all too convoluted for me. All of this testing goes on across 17 different sports, and to maybe thousands of athletes, all year round. To me LA’s excuses are full of holes and bordering on desperate, but that’s just an opinion. On the other hand the facts, few as they are, aren’t open to debate, and as the first and third “offences” came a few days before big races that she won, I’ll reserve the right to be sceptical and disappointed. I’ve followed the pro side of this sport for too long to not suspect fire when the smoke starts rising.?

    This.

    She shouldn’t be competing at the Olympics, and probably beyond. Imagine the difference in opinions if she was Russian.

  37. This just popped up via a friend on my face book. The bit about having a minder and things possibly having been different if he’d still been on the case seems a bit crap but as someone who’s a bit crap at admin I’m inclined to take her word for it. I also respect her decision not to go into family events to improve the public perception.

    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 un heard 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 school girl I was introduced to the whereabouts system. 9 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 whole heartedly support.

     

    To add some background before I explain the specific details of my 3 ‘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 vs 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 band substance.

     

    I will present the facts of my 3 ‘strikes’

     

    Sweden 20th August 2015

     

    UKAD are allowed a maximum of 2 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 athletes 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.

     

    2nd ‘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 3rd 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 9th of June 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 3 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 over night 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 physiatrist 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 1 filing failure and 1 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.

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