FORMER World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) vice president Arne Ljungqvist has revealed well-known athletes “legally” used banned substances after receiving permission for their use to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Ljungqvist, who served as WADA vice-president from 2008 to 2013, made the admissions being asked about information published by hacker group ‘Fancy Bears’, which revealed six lists of athletes who have been granted Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) permitting them to take medication at the time of competition.
The lists named 127 athletes, including American tennis champion Serena Williams, British cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins, and Team USA’s four-time Olympic gymnastics gold medallist Simone Biles, who confessed that she suffers from ADHD and takes medication that contains banned substances, on the advice of doctors.
“When talks began on the topic of TUEs, there were a lot of disagreements in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hierarchy. If an athlete is suffering from illness and needs to take strong medication, then it is not worth them competing,” Ljungqvist said.
“ADHD in teenagers did not present any issue as they rarely compete at the highest level. But when these diagnoses were made for adults, it caused greater problems. There are some high-level athletes using that diagnosis,” he added.
Danish cyclist Michael Rasmussen, winner of the Tour de France in 2005 and 2006, admitted to doping from 1998-2001. He revealed that in many instances where diagnoses are made that give athletes permission to take banned substances, the doctors’ decisions are bogus.
“I didn’t have any injuries or illnesses that could warrant a TUE, but I don’t think I am the only one who doped, otherwise I would have always been first. Everything is done quite easily: you write to them saying you have an injury, what medication you need, including a seal of approval by the doctor of the diagnosis, which is forged. In five minutes you can get permission to use banned substances,” he said.
“They let me know about TUEs the moment I signed a contract with a top team. We all planned in advance, the doctor said, when we needed to take the substance glucocorticosteroid when you succumbed to fatigue, I could lose weight, but nevertheless not feel weakness in my muscles or any weariness,” Rasmussen added.
On 20 July, Norwegian cross-country skier Martin Johnsrud Sundby was banned from competition for two months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for an anti-doping rule violation. His use of asthma medication salbutamol resulted in the test levels of his urine sample exceeding the limits set in anti-doping rules.
According to an investigation by the Norwegian media, 46 of Norway’s 61 Olympic champions since 1992 have used asthma medication which contains banned substances.
“WADA remain tolerant to the asthma issue – even without TUEs it allows as much as 1600 mcg (16 inhalations) on a daily basis,” Ljungqvist say.
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