RIO DE JANIERO (AFP) — French cycling star Pauline Ferrand-Prévot stood by her criticism of Brit Lizzie Armitstead on Thursday following a Twitter spat involving the latter’s husband.
Ferrand-Prévot had described the decision to clear Armitstead to race at the Rio Olympics despite three missed doping tests as “shameful”, ensuring there should be some niggle in the peloton when the two rub shoulders in Sunday’s women’s road race.
And on Thursday the 24-year-old former road race world champion, who was succeeded by Armitstead last year, maintained her stance, despite claiming she had not accused the Briton of anything.
“I said the decision was shameful,” said Ferrand-Prévot. “I never said she took something or that she has doped.”
However, Ferrand-Prévot reiterated her view on the decision to lift Armitstead’s provisional suspension, imposed after she missed three tests within a one-year period.
The 27-year-old Briton, who won silver in London four years ago in the road race, took her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and was cleared of wrongdoing due to an administrative error.
“The rules have to be the same for everyone,” blasted Ferrand-Prévot, who insisted her peers agree with her. “When there are three ‘no-shows’ it’s because there’s a problem. In the peloton everyone agrees with me but no-one is saying anything.”
Armitstead’s fiancé Philip Deignan, a professional cyclist himself with Team Sky and a reserve for the Irish team in Rio, had weighed into the row with a post on Twitter relating to Ferrand-Prévot’s private life.
The Tweet was subsequently taken down.
Ferrand-Prévot, who will also compete in mountain biking in Rio, insisted that she would not have been treated similarly by the French cycling federation had she missed three tests.
“If that happened to me I’d be told: ‘Pauline, you’re not going to the Games’,” she said. “The rules have to be respected, otherwise it’s a free for all.”
Armitstead was provisionally suspended by UK anti-doping (UKAD) on July 11 but CAS upheld her appeal after ruling that for the first of her missed tests the UKAD doping control officer had not made reasonable attempts to locate her at a team hotel.
Armitstead didn’t contest the missed test at the time, but only did so after missing the third test on June 9.
That third missed test was due to “dealing with a traumatic time” in her personal life, according to Armitstead, who claimed she had merely forgotten to “change a box on a form.”
“I am not a robot, I am a member of a family,” she protested, adding: “It hurts me to consider anybody questioning my performances.”