British cycling star's pre-Olympic drug test blunder revealed

Britain's Sir Bradley Wiggins. Photo / AP
Britain's Sir Bradley Wiggins. Photo / AP

The storm engulfing Sir Bradley Wiggins intensified on Friday night when it emerged that he committed a 'whereabouts failure' - the equivalent of a missed drugs test - less than three months before the Olympic Games in Rio.

The 'missed' test was in May, and Sportsmail can also reveal that Wiggins has committed a total of three whereabouts - or filing - failures in his career. The others are believed to have been between 2005 and 2009.

Under the system operated by the World Anti-Doping Agency, athletes have to provide a daily one-hour slot when a doping control officer can test them. In an emergency, the athlete can change the slot up to a minute before it begins. An athlete who misses three tests in 12 months can be banned for up to two years.

In May, Wiggins committed a whereabouts failure owing, he claims, to confusion surrounding a flight back from the Tour of California.

Doping control officers put a strike against his name because they ruled he had provided insufficient information about where he would be. Wiggins blamed the time difference and the fact it was an overnight flight.

The failures leave Wiggins, a central figure in a UK Anti-Doping investigation into 'allegations of wrongdoing in cycling', open to accusations of hypocrisy given his scathing criticism of fellow British rider Lizzie Deignan (nee Armitstead).

Sportsmail broke the story of Deignan's three missed drug tests just before the Rio Olympics. She was able to compete only after having her first strike erased from her record in a hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport just weeks before the Games.

Fellow riders said she should not have been allowed to line up for the Olympic road race and Wiggins was particularly scathing.

He said: 'When you're a professional athlete and you're a world champion, there's no excuse, because it's your career. You're setting the standard for everybody else, and to say: "Cycling wasn't my priority at that time" is ludicrous, because you nearly lost your career over it. That's just ridiculous. So I can't fathom how that happened.

'It's bloody hard because what happens is you miss one test, they write you a letter, they ask you to explain what happened and you've got two weeks to put a case forward. If you ignore that and then you get another one, you end up having crisis meetings.

'You get a lot of support from UK Sport. They're brilliant. They're on the phone daily. They send you emails, reminders, they'll put plans in place for you in terms of someone helping you with the whereabouts, so you don't end up... well, it's very difficult, then, to go from two to three (missed tests). And to get three within eight or nine months, there's no excuse.'

At no point in his verbal attack did Wiggins admit that he, too, had fallen foul of a system with which many athletes have encountered difficulties. Last year Tour de France champion Chris Froome admitted he has had two whereabouts failures during his career, while athletes often complain how easy it is to make a mistake despite the fact that an update can be provided on a mobile phone.

The whereabouts system was introduced in 2005 and it is understood Wiggins' two other failures occurred prior to a significant rule change in 2009. Until then athletes faced being banned if they missed three drug tests in 18 months. After 2009, it was reduced to three in 12 months. Deignan found herself in such a situation this year.

Wiggins has denied any wrongdoing as the UK Anti-Doping investigation continues into trying to identify the contents of a mystery medical package ordered by Team Sky and delivered by a British Cycling official to the Team Sky bus at the end of the 2011 Dauphine Libere, a race Wiggins won.

In an extraordinary swipe at riders such as Wiggins and Froome, meanwhile, cyclist Marcel Kittel has claimed athletes who suffer from 'bad asthma' should compete in the Paralympics.

The British pair have both been granted permission to take medication to combat the condition at various times in their careers but Kittel told the Suddeutsche Zeitung: 'When someone has bad asthma then he has nothing to do in elite sport. That's why we introduced the Paralympics, so that the one-legged (athletes) had a chance to measure themselves against others.'

Fellow German sprinter Andre Greipel also hit out at Team Sky's use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), which allow athletes to take banned substances for medical reasons.

The Fancy Bears leak last month showed Wiggins had been granted permission to take the corticosteroid triamcinolone three times to ease his breathing problems.

This would not have been permitted if Team Sky were a member of the MPCC (Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Credible), a voluntary union set up in 2007 which adheres to a strict ethical code in cycling. MPCC members are not allowed to race for eight days after taking a corticosteroid.

Greipel said: 'If you are ill then you're not riding in races. That's why we're in the MPCC. And now we know why Sky weren't.'

WHAT WIGGINS SAID ABOUT DEIGNAN'S 'WHEREABOUTS FAILURES':

'When you're a professional athlete and you're a world champion, there's no excuse, because it's your career. You're setting the standard for everybody else, and to say: "Cycling wasn't my priority at that time" is ludicrous, because you nearly lost your career over it. That's just ridiculous. So I can't fathom how that happened.

'It's bloody hard because what happens is you miss one test, they write you a letter, they ask you to explain what happened and you've got two weeks to put a case forward.

'If you ignore that and then you get another one, you end up having crisis meetings.

'You get a lot of support from UK Sport. They're brilliant. They're on the phone daily. They send you emails, reminders, they'll put plans in place for you in terms of someone helping you with the whereabouts, so you don't end up... well, it's very difficult, then, to go from two to three (missed tests).

'And to get three within eight or nine months, there's no excuse.'

- Daily Mail

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