Leeds Rhinos: Armitstead caught up in ‘nightmare’ test system – Ablett

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THERE ALWAYS seems to be a big drugs story when the Olympics are on.

I think most sports people are clean and want to get as far as they can through hard work and effort, but there will always be a few who take short cuts.

If I get delayed after training or a game because I’m required for a drugs test, it’s the cheats I blame, not the testers.

There has to be a strong testing regime to keep sports clean, but having said that, I do have sympathy for Lizzie Armitstead after her three missed tests, because I know what a nightmare the whereabouts system can be.

Under the whereabouts system you have to let the drugs testers know where you are going to be for one hour every day.

Then the testers can turn up and you have to be at that place at that particular time, or you get a strike.

If you get three strikes, which is what happened to Lizzie Armitstead, you can be banned for two years, though she appealed and was allowed to compete at Rio.

I was on the system for a brief spell and I always tried to put myself down for being in my house at 6am.

I was always up by then and very rarely left the house before that, so I was fairly safe. I was quite lucky the testers never called, but other lads in our team have been tested on the whereabouts system.

You could also get tested at other times, but there’s no punishment if you’re not available. It doesn’t sound too complicated, but I can understand how mistakes are made.

As a professional sportsperson life is quite regimented. You operate to a schedule and get told where you have to be at certain times.

You get into a routine and when you’re in the club environment you get reminded about the whereabouts system, but if you have some time off or you go away for a few days, it can be quite easy to forget.

For example, if you are staying away overnight before a game you have to remember to put that on.

If your plans change or something happens, you have to get on your phone and make an alteration and you can see how easily it might slip your mind.

It doesn’t mean you have got something to hide. On one of the occasions Lizzie missed a test she was tested the next day and was clean.

Maybe it is something that needs policing a bit better though, being honest, I am not sure how it could be improved.

Reading about what happened to Lizzie, it sounds like she had genuine reasons for her missed tests.

On one occasion she was in a hotel and the testers couldn’t get access to her room. Another time she had a family crisis and making herself available for a doping test was probably the last thing on her mind.

I can understand how that happens and it must be tough to take if you get a strike when you haven’t actually done anything wrong and you are caught out by something as basic as an administrative error.

I remember when we were training in Jacksonville a few years ago the drugs testers turned up then.

It can be a bit of an inconvenience at times, but it is part of modern sport and if being tested occasionally helps create a clean game, it is definitely a price worth paying.

I haven’t been tested this season, but have been quite a few times in the past.

It seems to happen in bursts. You might get tested three or four times in the space of a couple of months, then not at all for the next half a year.

I have been tested at the training ground a few times and it happens after most finals.

The worst time is after a game, because you are usually so dehydrated. They give you plenty to drink to help the process along, but it can take hours sometimes.

I have been done after finals and it can take the gloss off, because, while everyone else is celebrating, you have to sit in a room with a tester who can’t leave your side.

But that’s a sacrifice you have to make.

We all want a clean sport and players to be playing by the rules and doing the right things, so there has to be a system in place.

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