September 24, 2016 – Many of the world’s top cyclists, Canadians among them, are having their names splashed across the news as confidential files of their Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) details are being leaked including those of athletes in other sports. In some cases authorized use of otherwise banned corticoid steroids is raising eyebrows and questions.
Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Fabian Cancellara, Nino Schurter and Jacob Fuglsang are some of the top riders named to date with two Canadian mountain bikers Catharine Pendrel and Raphael Gagné also mentioned.
The leaks have been orchestrated by a group calling itself The Fancy Bears, which hacked into the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Court of Arbitration in Sports (CAS) to obtain the confidential details. WADA claims that these attacks originated from Russia reports The Guardian.
Some speculate this is a retort to harsh criticisms made by WADA of “state-sponsored doping in Russia” that led to a partial ban of Russian athletes at the Rio Olympics and complete ban of Russian athletes at the Rio Paralympics.
“Greetings citizens of the world. Allow us to introduce ourselves… We are Fancy Bears’ international hack team. We stand for fair play and clean sport,” reads an introduction on the Fancy Bears website. While nobody has officially claimed responsibility for the hacks, bears are often used as a symbol for Russia. The Russian embassy in Great Britain also tweeted that TUEs of Olympic athletes should not remain private.
Froome’s TUEs seem to contain nothing that was not already public but Wiggins seems to be in hot water over his use of the powerful corticosteroid triamcinolone days before winning the 2012 Tour de France. He is set to appear on BBC TV’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday at 9am UK time to explain, reports The Telegraph. Cancellara’s TrekSegafredo team tweeted: “Together with @f_cancellara we confirm TUEs for bee sting treatment.”
Pendrel posted on her Facebook page that: “Today I was informed that my WADA account was hacked by Fancy Bears. You will see my name in the media with other athletes who received a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) this season. As many of you know I had surgery for a broken thumb in April. 2 pins were inserted in my thumb to aid the bones in union. For the surgery an anesthesiologist gave Remifentanil as a pain killer for which I applied for and received a TUE. That is all. Keep the faith.”
“I have nothing to hide,” Gagné told Pedal by telephone. He confirmed using Salbutamol, a medication used to treat asthma, from 2009 to 2013 as prescribed by a specialist (pneumologist) and approved by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES). “I had a TUE for Salbutamol, but this medication is no longer on the WADA list of banned substances [Editor’s note: salbutamol was listed on WADA’s banned list in 2010, but low dosage use of the medication was removed from the list in about 2011].”
Gagné suggests that the recent Fancy Bear leaks are part of an effort to divert media attention away from Russian athletes and put “clean” athletes under the spotlight.
The use of TUEs to camouflage doping has been practiced for some time. Lance Armstrong famously used a backdated TUE, authorizing him to use cortisone, to escape a doping conviction at the 1999 Tour de France that he won. Pundits suggest that what is perhaps most surprising about the recent Fancy Bear leaks is the extent to which athletes are currently using TUEs, often under dubious circumstances.
The Telegraph: Wiggins to explain here.
The Guardian: who are the Fancy Bears? here.
Radio Canada on Gagne and Pendrel (French) here.