Banned cyclist Robin Townsend claims drink was spiked by longtime rival before time trial

Robin Townsend told the UKAD hearing that a longstanding dispute with a fellow rider led to his bottle being spiked with modafinil before he tested positive

Image: Watson

Banned amateur cyclist Robin Townsend told his hearing with UK Anti-Doping that he believes his drink was spiked by a longtime rival ahead of the 100-mile time trial he tested positive in.

Townsend, the reigning 12-hour time trial champion, was handed a four-year ban by UKAD after testing positive for stimulant modafinil after the Burton and District Alliance 100-mile event on September 5.

The decision document released by UKAD on Thursday revealed the “only possible explanation” he could provide was that his sample was “spiked at the event”.

Townsend even went as far to offer the name of the person who he believes spiked the drink, telling the hearing that he was and remains in fear of the man - whose name was redacted from the document - which UKAD accepted.

The hearing heard of incidences of hostility between Townsend and the alleged spiker during a longstanding dispute, also involving Townsend's partner Denise Bayliss.

The unnamed man reportedly sent Ms Bayliss a threatening text message on September 30, 2014, which they reported to the CTT. UKAD censored the words, not the sender, according to the report.

It read: “you ignorant bastard. [redacted]. That little c*** is only 2 minutes behind me now. I’m going to tear you and him apart. F***ing lock your doors as I am going to come and rip you to shreds if you ever cross me again it will be the end of everything you know”.

Then, the hearing heard, at an event in January 2015, the unnamed man tried to provoke Townsend to fight him, which Townsend refused. The report suggests a reason for why this took place, but it was redacted.

>>> British Masters Champion Andy Hastings given four-year doping ban

On the day of the race, Townsend reportedly left his bike unattended for no more than 20 minutes as he registered for the event. Townsend told the hearing he believed his 'clean' bottle was replaced by the 'dirty' one, containing a drink similar to the eye, but spiked with the banned substance.

Townsend's partner was reportedly the only other person with access to his bottles, which had been pre-made. She stood along the route to hand him bottles periodically, so he only ever had one bottle on his bike at a time. Townsend claimed the only one which could have been spiked was the one on his bike before the race.

The rider admitted he made an error in not declaring any of the supplements or products he was using on the doping control form, saying it was his first time being tested.

Townsend told the hearing that he had no reason to dope and that he had everything to lose by doing so. By being crowned national champion weeks before he was only riding the event for the benefit of his team and had no need to ride a fast time.

>>> Junior time trial champion Gabriel Evans admits EPO use

The co-manager and secretary of the Yorkshire District CTT wrote a letter supporting Townsend's character, saying he had nothing to gain from taking the prohibited substance.

While accepting Townsend's story of a fued with the unnamed man, UKAD did not accept his 'spiking' explanation was "sufficient" to discarge his burden of proof and he failed to provide full evidence of the spiking.

Professor David Cowan, director of the Drug Control Centre at Kings College London told the hearing that modafinil was difficult, but not impossible, to dissolve in a drink. He said that many people who take modafinil report a bitter taste, something which Townsend reportedly failed to mention during or before his hearing.

Townsend is the second amateur cyclist to be banned in recent months, with Masters champion Andrew Hastings also suspended for testing positive for steroids.

In the days following the Hastings announcement, junior national champion Gabriel Evans admitted to taking EPO, although has not yet been sanctioned.

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.