Wada move to ban drug used by Bradley Wiggins

Anti-doping agency believes current system with triamcinolone open to abuse

Team Sky in their team bus during the 2012 Tour de France. Bradley Wiggins won the race but had a TUE for the use of triamcinolone during  it. Photo: Scott Mitchell/Getty Images

Team Sky in their team bus during the 2012 Tour de France. Bradley Wiggins won the race but had a TUE for the use of triamcinolone during it. Photo: Scott Mitchell/Getty Images

 

The World Anti-Doping Agency is considering a blanket ban on the controversial drug used by Bradley Wiggins before his Tour de France victory. Wada’s director general, Olivier Niggli, said the organisation had decided to act because the current system – which allows athletes to use powerful corticosteroids freely out of competition and during competition with a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) certificate – was unsatisfactory and open to abuse.

Wiggins has come under sustained fire after the Russian hackers Fancy Bears revealed he was given three TUEs for triamcinolone injections before the 2011 and 2012 Tour as well as the 2013 Giro d’Italia. He has claimed they were for a pollen allergy but triamcinolone – also known as Kenacort – can rapidly reduce an athlete’s weight while maintaining their power.

Last year David Millar, who was banned in 2004 for doping offences, claimed that if he took Kenacort, 1.5-2kgs would drop off in a week and he would feel stronger.

The UK Anti-Doping chief executive, Nicole Sapstead, told MPs last week that the Dr Richard Freeman of Team Sky had placed orders for amounts of triamcinolone that were “far more” than needed for Wiggins’s three pollen allergy treatments.

Speaking at the Tackling Doping in Sport conference in London, Niggli confirmed that a special group had been set up because “the system as it is now is not good”.

As well as the performance-enhancing benefits, corticosteroids can be taken in different ways – some of which are legal, such as creams for saddle sores, and others, including injections, that need a TUE. As Niggli pointed out, it is currently impossible for Wada to distinguish between the different methods. “In fact, only those who are being honest about what they have been doing get caught – otherwise you always say: ‘It was a cream,’ and you get away with it,” he added.

The news was welcomed by Ukad, which has raised concerns about the misuse of corticosteroids for the past three years. “If they introduce an outright ban on corticosteroids then great,” said Sapstead. “It can’t be right when somebody doesn’t actually have a medical problem that warrants their use and it then has some additional effects that they can benefit from.”

Niggli confirmed that Wada could intervene if the impasse between the US Anti-Doping Agency and Ukad over when to retest Mo Farah’s samples for EPO continues. “We would have the jurisdiction to do it ourselves,” he said. “But everyone wants the same thing. It’s just how you do it.

“Before you open this bottle and you know it’s your only shot at it, you want to make sure that it’s worth doing it.”

The FBI has reportedly joined the investigation into Farah’s coach, Alberto Salazar, and Niggli stressed that there were several benefits that came with law-enforcement involvement. “First of all, they can force people to talk and that makes a huge difference,” he said. “If you go into an interview with an anti-doping organisation that says: ‘If you don’t talk to me, you’re not a good guy,’ that is all. But if you tell the guy he’s going to stay in jail for three days unless he talks, the psychology is quite different.”

Added Niggli: “They also have access to quite a lot of documents that anti-doping organisations cannot have. In the Lance Armstrong case, Usada had tons of testimony from the team-mates but nothing concrete. And we managed to get the Italian police to share the information they had on [Dr Michele]Ferrari, including a search they’d done in the Swiss banks, where they had money transferred from Armstrong’s account to Dr Ferrari.”

(Guardian service)

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