WADA

Wiggins on Marr on TUEs

This morning Sir Bradley Wiggins appeared on The Andrew Marr Show to discuss the leaked TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) documents leaked by the hacking group Fancy Bears.

Wiggins has come under increasing pressure over recent days with cycling fans and the media accusing him of legally doping before 3 Grand Tours and in particular before his 2012 Tour de France victory.

So, what do we actually know?

  • It is common knowledge that Wiggins suffers from asthma and a pollen allergy
  • Wiggins has had 6 TUEs.  3 for Salbutamol, Formoterol and Budesonide administered by inhaler from and 3 for Triamcinolone Acetonide administered by intramuscular injection
  • Salbutamol, Formoterol and Budesonide are asthma inhaler drugs
  • Triamcinolone Acetonide is a strong treatment for asthma and allergies
  • Triamcinolone Acetonide has performance enhancing qualities, hence the need for a TUE
  • The TUEs were not specifically requested by Wiggins, or did he ask for those specific drugs.  A specialist saw him, diagnosed him and then applied for the TUE.
  • The TUEs were approved by the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency)
  • Wiggins never mentioned the injections in his autobiography
  • No rules have been broken by Wiggins or Team Sky

What we don’t know and will probably ever know is:

  • Did the Triamcinolone Acetonide give Wiggins an unfair advantage over his rivals or did it just get him back to the level he would be at without his asthma and pollen allergy?
  • Do Team Sky request TUEs for other riders before Grand Tours to give them an advantage?
  • Did the UCI turn down other riders requests for similar drugs but let Wiggins have a TUE because of who he is?

The main point of discussion is Wiggins won the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2012 then had an injection of Triamcinolone Acetonide prior to winning the 2012 Tour de France 3 weeks later.  On Marr Wiggins stated that despite winning the  Dauphiné he was still struggling with his breathing so saw a specialist who then prescribed the injection.

In an effort to understand if this was standard practice at Team Sky did they do this for Chris Froome prior to his Tour de France wins?  The answer is no.  His TUE’s were also leaked by Fancy Bears and he took nothing prior to any of his 3 TdF victories.

As medical records are confidential we will never know if the UCI jut let Wiggins off because of who he was but looking back at the time he wasn’t the massive star that he is now.  Of course he had won gold medals and races but it was the 2012 Tour de France win and subsequent Olympic time trial win in London that catapulted him to his current status.

 

Cycling has a dark, drug addled past and those who follow the sport are fully aware of this. Cycling’s past is the main reason why people are accusing Wiggins and Sky of un-ethical practices with regards to TUEs.

I’ve seen a lot of tweets and articles and they all are black and white.  A lot of the tweeters minds were made up before the TUEs were leaked as they were anti-Sky.  There are many neutrals who are unhappy with all of this, me being one of them, but I place the blame not with Brad, but with the UCI and WADA.

I have been told that if you need the injections that Wiggins took you wouldn’t be able to race.  If this is the case then the application of the TUE should have alerted the UCI and WADA that something dodgy was going on and rejected the application.  This didn’t happen.

I agree that the TUE process and guidance needs to change but that isn’t the fault of any rider.  It is for the governing body, the UCI, to identify problems associated with drugs in cycling and put in place sufficient rules and governance to prevent abuse.

 

If you browse through my blog you will see I’m certainly not a doping apologist, and have been angered by British riders in the past.  I just think that where a guy has followed the rules he doesn’t deserve the treatment that Lance Armstrong got.

Then there is the whole ethics debate but it’s Sunday, I’m going to go for a ride, after all we enjoy cycling don’t we?

Maria Sharapova Gets Popped And I Smell Bullshit

Please see update at bottom of the post…

The biggest earning female tennis star of the last ten years, Maria Sharapova, yesterday confessed to us all in a well choreographed press conference that she had tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium.

Meldonium has only been on the WADA banned list since 1 January 2016 and Sharapova neglected to open an email from WADA advising her of this so kept of taking the medication she was given by a family doctor to reduce the risk of diabetes.  She had been taking the drug for the last 10 years.

Lets have a little look as to why the above smells of bullshit…

Now I think (and I may well be wrong) it is feasible that Sharapova may have been taking this for 10 years to enhance their performance legally and has fallen foul of the new WADA code as her and her team were very inept.  I am not stating she has done this, I am trying to show the other, more sceptical, side of the argument.  Firstly though remember that Meldonium was perfectly legal prior to 1 January 2016 and she was able quite legally to take it.  Whether she should have morally is another argument.  Please read below and make your own mind up:

Background

Maria moved to the United States when she was around 7-8 years old and has lived in the US ever since.  Meldonium isn’t licensed in the United States for the treatment of anything.  That means a family doctor in the US would not prescribe it.

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Meldonium is a drug that is used to treat angina, myocardial infarction and chronic heart failure.  Having done a little research there isn’t much out there on the internet that advises it is used in the treatment of diabetes or reducing the risk of diabetes.

Jake Shelley in his blog on what Meldonium is and does describes excellently what the effects of the drug are for a fit and well person taking it for performance enhancing benefits:

  • Decreased levels of lactate and urea in blood
  • Improved economy of glycogen: level of glycogen increased in the cells during the long-lasting exercise
  • Increased endurance properties and aerobic capabilities of athletes
  • Improved functional parameters of heart activity
  • Increased physical work capabilities
  • Increased rate of recovery after maximal and sub-maximal loads
  • Activates CNS functions and protects against stress

And he also goes on to make the point that “Some of the above effects published in the review article were reported from this study. Unfortunately, quite a lot of the research into this topic is only published in Russian”.  Quite interesting when recently some 17% of tested Russian athletes had this in their system prior to WADA banning the drug.

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An ARD doping documentary aired two days ago featured news that a high number of Russian athletes were testing positive for Meldomium in 2015, 1 in 5 to be exact.  Now they can’t all have heart failure or be trying to prevent diabetes.  It would appear Russian athletes have been taking this stuff for some time for reasons other than the treatment of medical conditions.

One final point worth making is Sharapova claims to have taken the drug for 10 years.  This would put the date that she first took Meldonium at around 2005/6.

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Most clinical trials of the drug didn’t start until 2008.  She would have been pretty hard pressed to get any doctor to prescribe it to her prior to this, Russian or otherwise.  And remember it’s STILL NOT LICENSED in the US.

Career

Sharapova rose to No 1 in the world in 2005.  In 2006 she enjoyed more success but in 2007 fell out of the top 5 struggling with injury after injury.  A drug that could help you train harder and recover quicker would have been helpful with repeat injuries.  Even if Maria was taking it to stop diabetes the side effects described would have been an unfair advantage over her competitors.

She returned back to No 1 in 2012 following more injuries and a shoulder operation.  Even a third shoulder injury in 2013 didn’t stop her coming back in 2014 to win the French Open and then going on to the Australian Open final in 2015 without dropping a set.  Pretty impressive when she has been dogged with injury all her career.

Conclusion

Sharapova is an immensely gifted tennis player but by her own admission she has been taking a performance enhancing drug, legally until 1 January 2016, for the majority of her professional tennis career.

She claims this is for the treatment of potential diabetes.  There are many drugs out there designed for that purpose more so than Meldonium.  Why not take them?  A US family doctor would not prescribe her Meldonium.

She claims she didn’t open the WADA email.  She would have had emails 18 months before as the drug was put on the WADA watch list.  The ITF would have emailed her.  WADA have a little leaflet for athletes to tell them what’s banned and whats not.  The Australian Open have a players meeting before the tournament to discuss this stuff.  She pays out lots of money to a manager, coach, nutritionalist and doctor all who’s responsibility it is to keep her out of harms way.  None of them knew?

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When you look at the full picture the one that Sharapova paints seems poor.  Something that your child would do at nursery – certainly not a Picasso.  Because you love your child you think it’s the best picture ever though.  That’s what Team Sharapova are counting on.  Her fans love her and will accept every word.

I think it’s pretty immoral but perfectly legal to take Meldonium prior to 2016 for whatever reason.  To be honest if you have heart failure you aren’t going to be threatening the No 1 spot any time soon.

She continued to take it beyond January 2016 and I do not believe for one minute that no one in her team or Sharapova herself knew it wasn’t banned.  But it is a possibility and we will have to take her word for it.

I predict a 6 month ban and she’ll be back playing before the end of the year.  Just in time for the 2017 Australian Open in fact.  That’ll be a new story in itself.  Soon after that she’ll retire having won lots and lots of money and no one will remember this little blip in an otherwise fantastic, legal drug aided, career.

I leave you with two final thoughts:

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9/3/2016 Update – Sharapova stated that magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes lead to her taking the drug. Recently Channel 4 News asked the drug manufacturer if the drug was effective in treating these issues. They advised that their drug has no effect on these medical complaints.

Seb Coe Is Laughing At You

Seriously, he’s pissing his pants at you lot.

Just heard Chris Evans describing him as the kind of guy you would want to sort out the mess at the IAAF – honest, trustworthy and a man who gets things done.  Really…

Seb Coe is lucky to be the President of the IAAF.  The Paula Radcliffe suspicious blood passport story broke a couple of days after the IAAF Presidential Election and I wonder, considering the slim margin that he won by, if the story had come out prior what the effect would have been.  Paula still maintains her innocence and obviously never failed a doping test, but we have heard that one before eh Lance?

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Seb, the man with a six figure salary from Nike – a company who have no issue sponsoring convicted dopers such as Justin Gatlin, who also sold his company in January 2013 t0 Complete Leisure Group (CLG) so may need that six figure salary a little more that before (see link here from Private Eye).

This Daily Mail article highlights the two sides of Seb Coe, how he stands up for such people as Alberto Salazar, is the chair of a Sports Agency (another conflict of interest), but then claims to feel queasy if Justin Gatlin was to win gold in Beijing.

I saw an enjoyable interview last night with Seb Coe conducted by the excellent Jon Snow who had Coe squirming in his seat:

And Jon made a great point.  Seb Coe was No 2 in charge at the IAAF for the last SEVEN years and claimed to be close friends with the outgoing President, Lamine Diack but says he had no idea that the biggest doping scandal in the history of sport was going on under his Vice Presidency.  The report issued yesterday into this states that the IAAF were aware, so what was Coe doing?

I’ll tell you what Seb Coe was doing.  He was looking after number one as usual.  If you take off the blinkers it is pretty obvious that he’s just about making money, increasing his profile and lording himself about, literally as a Lord.

Coe, a former Tory MP, received his peerage in 2000, for what exactly?  Just remember Lord Coe voted for the Tax Credit cuts this year.  What a smug bastard.

Seb Coe isn’t fit to lead Athletics out of this mess.  As Jon Snow said, he’s either corrupt or was sleeping on the job.

Tom Maynard – Another Victim Of Inadequate Drug Testing In Sport

Today saw the outcome of the inquest into the tragic death of Surrey cricketer Tom Maynard. Tom, after a a defeat with Surrey went out drinking, took cocaine and ecstasy. He then drove to his girlfriend’s house but en route was noticed by police driving erratically. He left his car and tried to escape on foot, ultimately onto a live tube line where he died either from an electric shock or the following collision with a tube train.

This story is sad on so many levels. Tom’s parents say this behaviour was not typical of their son, his friends knew nothing of his drug taking and Tom’s career was going from strength to strength. The inquest identified through hair samples that Tom had been taking cocaine regularly, even daily, for three and a half months. Tom was the leading batsman in the Surrey averages and would have certainly appeared for England in the future.

Tom has been badly let down by his sport. He was playing cricket at a high level, during the playing season whilst being able to take cocaine on a near daily basis without suspicion. It transpires that during this three and a half month period Tom was not tested for any drugs. How on earth does that manage to happen?

What sort of sport does not test the leading batsman of a county for three and a half months in season?

Angus Porter, Professional Cricketers Association Chief Executive, confirmed the above today in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live. He said that if Tom had been tested at any time throughout the three and a half months period the cocaine abuse would have been flagged up. If just goes to show that a proper doping policy could have saved Tom’s life.

It’s about time professional sport started to dope test properly. If you are exceeding at sport you should expect to be tested more frequently, but also all players should be randomly tested as a team after games. Never should the leading batsman or a county not be tested for over half a season.

Does it also not seem weird that Novak Djokovic, the number one tennis player in the world, was not blood tested for performance enhancing drugs for over six months? He should be tested at every tournament! It just makes you wonder how often footballers get tested? Once or twice a season? Surely it should be the whole squad, at least after every 3-4 games?

I really think that sports need to get serious with doping, and test properly and regularly, not be frightened of what they might find if they did.

My thoughts and condolences are with Tom Maynard’s family.