The news that athletes such as Bradley Wiggins have been given Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUES) for prohibited drugs to treat conditions such as asthma has gone viral after the data was released by Fancy Bears, a Russian group of hackers.
Dr Leon Creaney, Consultant in Sport & Exercise Medicine, gives us his opinion:
“The recent revelations by Fancy Bears are, in my opinion, an attempt to create a story, where no real story exists; sour grapes that Russian systematic cheating has been exposed.
“Athletes are allowed to take medications if they have a diagnosed medical condition, and the only medication that works just happens to be on the prohibited list.
“To get a TUE you have to be objectively diagnosed (usually by two separate specialists) that you have the condition. This will usually involve clinical opinion, and the results of various tests. This information has to be submitted to the governing body of the sport, and for international competition, the international body, and for the Olympics, the IOC. It is a separate application each time.
“So a British athlete would have to apply to UKAD/British Athletics, IAAF and the IOC for example.
“In terms of the medication, they would have to prove that other medications have been tried already, and aren’t controlling the condition, and that the only medication that works, happens to be on the prohibited list.
“The kind of medications that sports people get TUEs for (i.e. Insulin, Thyroxine, Triamcinolone which is a corticosteroid) are not particularly performance enhancing anyway, so it’s all legitimate as far as I’m concerned.
“In particular asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition, and it tends to be exacerbated by hard training. So if you told athletes that they could only compete when they are symptom-free and off all medications, they would never compete!
“Should athletes go public with their TUE’s? Not really, it’s not in the general public interest what diseases an athlete has. It’s private medical information.”
Dr Leon Creaney
BMedSci MB ChB MRCP FFSEM
Consultant in Sport & Exercise Medicine