Irish Olympian Paul Pollock defends use of drug exemptions

Runners says treating some injuries using banned substances is unavoidable

Paul Pollock, who has spoken out about the need for WADA exemptions, with Catherina McKiernan and Keith Walsh, Break Through The Wall, Irishtown Stadium, Dublin. ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Paul Pollock, who has spoken out about the need for WADA exemptions, with Catherina McKiernan and Keith Walsh, Break Through The Wall, Irishtown Stadium, Dublin. ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

 

Imagine you are a female athlete and you are receiving hormone treatment for fertility issues and have not been able to have children. The treatment requires taking hormones which will ensure your next urine specimen will test positive.

Imagine you are a male hockey player and you have been diagnosed with cancer. The treatment is encouraging and you have a good chance of surviving. But the drugs required are on the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) list as being prohibited. If you take them you will test positive.

In both instances athletes can seek a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), whereby they are assessed by doctors and a rational decision made on the basis of their condition.

Hackers

WADASimone Biles

Eight months ago Irish Olympic marathon runner Paul Pollock fractured a bone in his foot that required a steroid injection to aid the recovery process. Pollock works as a doctor in the A&E department of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and took an injection into the joint of one of his metatarsals. He requested and received a TUE.

In Rio he produced a strong finish over the 26 miles, moving up 64 places over the second half of the race to claim 32nd spot in a time of 2:16.24.

Second Captains

The TUEs are, he says, useful. But since the ‘Fancy Bear’ hackers also released the details of cyclist Bradley Wiggins, which appeared to suggest his TUEs held a strategic importance to the races he was targeting, their credibility has been questioned.

“With any system in place it is open to interpretation and open to corruption. But you definitely have to have a system in place,” says Pollock. “I think I was justified (in using a TUE). Medical professionals said this is the injection you need to have. I did have a steroid injection into one of my feet. I had broken one of my metatarsals and was trying to get it healed. There are cases when you do get injured and when you do need to take certain banned substances. You want to declare that. You want to be open and honest and that’s where the TUEs comes into it.

Rigorous

“In the public eye there is a view of all these TUEs, athletes are taking advantage of them . . . there’s doping. I think a lot more work needs to be done to convince the public that the performances they are viewing are genuine. At the minute that is obviously not the case.”

The releasing of private records of athletes, he says, goes against the fundamental principles of medicine, the foundation stone that patients own their files. He does not believe athletes should be put under pressure to make records available to the public. “As a medical doctor we are taught pretty much from day one that it’s all about patient confidentiality,” he says. “Medical notes are the patient’s notes and it is up to them to be released. So for someone else, for whatever the reason, to come in and take somebody’s medical notes and release them is wrong. Even if they have good intentions you have to say that is not your information to have.”

While Wiggins is the obvious suspect, the direct connection between the consumption of banned products and peaks in performance has not been made in other athletes named in the ‘Fancy Bear’ leaks.

Doping

Pollock also believes that if athletes wish to take prohibited substances, the TUE route would not be the most sensible one to take. “I think it is very unlikely you would go down a TUE route if you are doping,” he says.

Whether that’s the case or not, the leaks may have opened up a new arena of legal cheating.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.