TUE system can be abused, says doping report author

Dr Richard McLaren

Dr Richard McLaren published his Wada report into Russia’s state-sponsored doping in July

The system of therapeutic use exemptions for athletes is open to abuse, says the man who led the probe into Russia’s state-sponsored doping.

Hackers Fancy Bears this week released athletes’ stolen medical files.

Asked if the files raised concerns about TUEs, Dr Richard McLaren said: “Probably the answer is yes – it would depend which sport.”

Olympic champions Laura Trott and Nicola Adams were among four Britons to have files released on Friday.

Medical details for swimmer Siobhan-Marie O’Connor and rower Olivia Carnegie-Brown were also published.

Three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome and five-time Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins had their files released earlier this week.

There is no suggestion the athletes are involved in any wrongdoing.

Russia president Vladimir Putin said that he “did not support what the hackers have been doing”, but the files “raised many questions”.

His comments came after International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said he will ask Moscow for help to stop the hackers, whom the World Anti Doping Agency (Wada) believes are linked to Russia.

The records released mostly detail TUEs which allow banned substances to be taken for athletes’ verified medical needs.

The group says TUEs are “licenses for doping” and that the World Anti-Doping Agency is “corrupt and deceitful”.

Earlier this week, Wada director general Olivier Niggli strongly criticised the leak.

‘TUEs are open to abuse’

Canadian law professor and sports lawyer McLaren told BBC World Service: “One of the common TUEs is for ADHD medication – there may be abuse there.

“That’s one area that probably needs to be looked at – how frequently are [certain medicines] being used in particular sports?

“One would have to conduct investigations on specific sports as to whether or not too many TUEs are being used with respect to particular substances.”

Methylphenidate, for example, is a stimulant that helps improve brain function in people with ADHD, but it could also help improve an athlete’s performance and is only allowed to be used by elite performers with medical approval.

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Richard McLaren critical of IOC’s doping report response

‘IOC response turned my report on its head’

McLaren also questioned the IOC response to his Russian state-sponsored doping investigation, which is believed to have prompted the hackers to break into Wada’s systems and release the athletes’ files.

He said the IOC downplayed the findings of his report, which concluded that Russia’s sports ministry “directed, controlled and oversaw” manipulation of urine samples provided by its athletes between 2011 and 2015.

The IOC imposed a partial ban on Russian athletes competing in the 2016 Olympics, in contrast to the International Paralympic Committee, which imposed a blanket ban on Russian participation at the Paralympics.

“The IOC turned it into an issue about individuals,” he said.

“The report looked at individuals not because they had committed doping infractions, but [to ascertain] whether they were part of a system that was operated outside of their national governing body, and was being run by the state.”

He said he was “confident” the report found sufficient proof of Russian state-sponsored doping, “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

“They were not interim conclusions,” he said. “They were final conclusions, and not allegations, as was suggested by various organisations including the IOC.

“The decision by the IOC [to impose a ban only on individual Russian athletes guilty of doping offences in the past] turned that on its head and turned it into an issue about individuals and their rights to compete, which was nothing to do with the report.”

What are therapeutic use exemptions?

A TUE allows an athlete, for medical reasons, to take a prescribed substance or undergo treatment which is prohibited.

British athletes must contact their national governing body or follow UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) guidance before applying for a TUE.

There are strict criteria for one to be granted:

  • The athlete would suffer significant health problems without taking the substance;
  • It would not be significantly performance-enhancing;
  • There is no reasonable therapeutic alternative to its use;
  • The need to use it is not due to prior use without a TUE.

Ukad says it has “a number of robust controls in place to make it as difficult as possible” for athletes to misuse the system.

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Froome, speaking during the 2015 Tour de France, questioned critics

Why are we talking about TUEs?

Froome and Wiggins, Britain’s most decorated Olympian, were among the five British athletes whose stolen medical files – showing their TUEs – were published by Fancy Bears this week.

The medical files of golfer Charley Hull, rugby sevens player Heather Fisher and rower Sam Townsend were also made public.

Froome, 31, said he had already made public his use of TUEs.

Froome twice took the steroid prednisolone for “exacerbated asthma” while Wiggins used salbutamol to treat chest conditions and asthma.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/37382825

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