Lizzie Deignan says she sympathises with Chris Froome over his leaked adverse analytical finding for salbutamol, adding that the Team Sky rider’s “reputation is tarnished and will be forever” whether he is eventually found guilty of anything or not.
The 2012 Olympic silver medallist said that she still felt let down by UK Anti-Doping over her own overturned ban for three out-of-competition whereabouts failures back in 2016, describing the system as “massively under-performing” and “lacking in transparency”.
Deignan, who will not be competing in this week’s OVO Energy Women’s Tour as she is taking a break from cycling to have a baby, had to appeal against a Ukad ban on the eve of the 2016 Olympics.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared her of one of her three failures, ruling that the Ukad officer had not followed required procedures nor made reasonable attempts to locate Deignan – then Armitstead – at her team hotel.
But Deignan – who admitted to “an administrative oversight” for the second failure, and blamed an “emergency change of plans” for the third – was criticised in many quarters, including by some of her fellow professionals in the women’s peloton.
„I felt really let down by UK Anti-Doping at the time that they didn’t publicly defend the fact that I was tested within a day of both ‘missed’ tests and obviously all my samples have proved negative, I’ve never doped,” she told the journalist Orla Chennaoui on her When Orla Met podcast.
“They, to my mind, should know and understand that I’m a clean athlete and I understand that athletes have to be under a rigorous system but all I needed was for them to say ‚we made a mistake, we’re an organisation that’s totally funded to do this job and we’ve made a mistake. As an athlete, as an individual she’s made a mistake but it’s not a doping mistake‘. And that would have just changed it for me you know?
“But they didn’t and yeah, it was just horrendous, just to have your character kind of assassinated publicly. It just reflected on me, the way I was brought up, my family. You know? To be called a cheat publicly when you’ve done nothing wrong is hard to go through.“
Deignan said she felt the whole whereabouts system was “massively underperforming”.
“There are still so many times when I try to update my whereabouts where the Adams system is down, where I can’t even upload my data, and yet if I make a filing mistake I’m taken to court, and financially it costs me a serious amount of money that not many athletes will be able to pay,” she said.
“Yet they haven’t taken ownership or apologised or anything. I think there’s still a long way to go for them to be transparent themselves actually.“
Deignan said she had sympathy for Froome over his ongoing legal process following his adverse analytical finding at last year’s Vuelta a España, which he is contesting.
„Well he hasn’t had a fair process because already people have made up their minds unfortunately,” she said. “And that is based on not the full story. None of us have the full facts of the case, but unfortunately for Chris, his reputation is tarnished and will be forever. Whether he’s innocent or not, it’s kind of irrelevant to some people at this stage. That’s because a leak in a legal process should never happen.
“A rider should be protected because inevitably there will be things that happen, grey areas that should be looked at logically, scientifically, and analysed in court. Because that’s an inevitable part of having asthma and taking an inhaler and I think unfortunately he hasn’t had a fair process.
„For me personally, I can see it as a very personal story and understand that it’s a very personal thing that’s happening to him right now so that’s why I would reserve any judgment on it until the courts have made up their mind.”
The Women’s Tour begins in Framlingham on Wednesday, finishing in Colwyn Bay on Sunday.