Linford Christie, the greatest British sprinter in history and gold medalist in the 100-meters at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, has asked the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to abolish the use of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) in sport. It’s not fair to allow some athletes to use steroids while forbidding steroid use by other athletes. WADA should just ban steroids for everyone.
Christie’s comments come after Russian hackers published the confidential TUEs of dozens of Olympic athletes. The TUEs were illegally obtained from the WADA’s Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS) database. The leaked TUEs made it clear that WADA had secretly given numerous athletes permission to use steroids, amphetamines and other banned performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
The Fancy Bear Hack Team suggested that athletes who used banned PEDs after receiving TUEs were no different than athletes who used banned PEDs without receiving TUEs. Both groups greatly benefited from a drug-enhanced increase in performance. The only difference was that WADA secret gave one of the groups of athletes explicit permission to “cheat”.
Christie’s solution to this double standard was simple – if it’s a performance-enhancing drug then no one should be able to use it.
“If something can enhance your performance you shouldn’t be allowed to take it, TUE or no TUE,” Christie said. “If it is something that gives you an unfair advantage over the next athlete, you should not be allowed to take it.
“There’s always going to be an abuse. Anything you allow people to do, they’ll always abuse it. The danger is whether it’s being abused, and I think every now and again there should be a re-check on what people are doing with the TUEs.”
Christie acknowledged that his proposal for abolishing TUEs was not the only possible solution to the unfair double standard. But if WADA refused to abolish TUEs completely, then it should at least eliminate its secrecy and make the entire process completely transparent. There should be full disclosure of all TUEs granted, the banned substances involved and the names of the athletes who are permitted to use the PEDs.
Christie still prefers to see WADA abolish all TUEs. Full disclosure would require that athletes release confidential records concerning relevant medical conditions.
“The only problem is it’s people’s private information, but if you ain’t got nothing to hide, you ain’t got nothing to worry about,” Christie said.
But either way, Christie believes something should be done because WADA’s TUE system is being abused.
As a former elite athlete who has served a two-year suspension for the anabolic steroid nandrolone in 1999, it’s not surprising to hear that Christie is upset that WADA is secretly allowing some lucky athletes to use steroids while still punishing other athletes who were not lucky enough to get a free pass to use PEDs.
Christie and the Fancy Bear Hack Team were not alone in criticizing the WADA TUE system this week. In surprising comments made to the BBC, Professor Richard McLaren, the independent person in charge of the WADA Commission into allegations of Russian doping, also agreed that the WADA TUE was probably being abused.
“Probably, yes. It would depend which sport… One of the common TUEs is for ADHD medication – there may be abuse there,” McLaren said. “That’s one area that probably needs to be looked at – how frequently are [certain medicines] being used in particular sports?”
It’s only a matter of time before WADA does something to reform its TUE system. WADA has three options: allow steroids for everyone, ban steroids for everyone, or provide full disclosure and transparency of which athletes are allowed to use steroids and which athletes are not allowed to use steroids.