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February 11, 2014

Throwing Stones

On Friday, news broke of this story where an athlete had suspended himself because SAIDS had turned down 2 of his TUE exemptions and he tested positive for a banned substance, etc. Some will say more of the same. Some will say it was unexpected, some will say it was not. That is not what this is about but the article did galvanise something for me.

Let’s take a step back and give you some links on all these things.

For TUE’s (Theraputic Use Exemptions) this is on the story from the UCI:

A Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) is a permission to use substances or methods on the prohibited list for the treatment of a documented medical condition.

UCI’s Anti-Doping Rules (numbers 36 and 37) state which riders must apply to the UCI for an exemption. These are riders who are in UCI’s Registered Testing Pool. Riders in this registered testing pool must obtain the exemption prior to use of the substance or method. A TUE can be granted retrospectively in exceptional circumstances only.

All other riders must obtain a TUE from the National Anti-Doping Organisation.

The UK Anti-Doping Rules, to which British Cycling adheres, state which riders must have a TUE in place prior to use. These are riders who are in the National Registered Testing Pool.

Other riders can make a retrospective application for a TUE no later than 10 working days after a test is completed.

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WADA says the following:

If the medication an athlete is required to take to treat an illness or condition happens to fall under the Prohibited List, a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) may give that athlete the authorization to take the needed medicine.

The purpose of the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions (ISTUE) is to ensure that the process of granting TUEs is harmonized across sports and countries.

Read more on the TUE guidelines here.

This article is not only about what constitutes a legal TUE and the process an athlete needs to follow to get one, but about responsibilities in general.

The reactions I personally saw to this article were expected and astounding in the same breath. Athletes throwing stones is not a pretty thing to see. We are all very comfortable to throw a stone once something like this comes out. What about when we know something and do nothing about it.

How many PRO guys are sitting with their anti-doping bodies and actively working towards getting the dirty guys out? How many friends of athletes who dope are sitting around with knowledge that could potentially damage the sport they love?

How many of us have heard a story, or been given a first-hand account of an athlete doping and done absolutely nothing about it. I know I have and this makes me a little ashamed, to be honest. It’s made me think about this a lot. If I knew something and didn’t document, report and act on it, I am just letting the issue persist. I am affecting sponsorship futures of others. No longer can we just turn a blind eye. No longer can I let rumors stay rumours if I know something.

I have never knowingly taken a substance on the UCI, WADA or any other official body’s list for any reason at all.

I have taken pain killers to ease the aches. I have taken products that I am not sure of what was in the product, because the label had so many substances on that I just took it, hoping the fat burner would help me get to race weight. Stupid.

With all these things – who am I to throw stones at any athletes? I have no right and unless you have reported every incident or ever taken a product that makes your training easier, where do you draw the line at banned / legal versus performance enhancement?

If you’ve ever taken a fat burner or a pain killer, are you cleaner than someone who had an agreed, medically given TUE for something that helps them do their job?

I don’t want to single any athletes out here, or bring up one specific scenario. There are no stones in this room.

But I do want to talk about how athletes approach this, with vague tweets, with insinuation and by addressing the matter with others.

If you have something to say, call the guy in question and ask him straight. Tell him how you feel and how disappointed you are in the entire situation, and why. Tell him how it affects the industry, your friends, your family, your friendships. Don’t just put 140 characters of back-handed pimp slaps together. Address it like a man.

We can only think about this ending if we approach it like adults.

Until you remove winning and money from sports, there will be doping. I don’t care what you say – you can’t change the factory worker whose father beat his mother and who’s brother is a thug, into a saint. He rides his bike ridiculously fast, makes a lot of money, sees a way to make more money by risking getting caught – something he is great at avoiding his whole life.

It’s not even a choice.

The 1st World approach of “morals” and “ethics” doesn’t play for the world of professional sports, littered with rags-to-riches stories and underdogs who make it by being the hardest fools in the yard.

These morals and ethics are not even a consideration for these guys. Play hard, party hard because this won’t last forever, so enjoy the ride. That’s just the stuff on the banned list, never mind the marginal gains that are untestable.

Things like this are untestable if used smartly and there is a very smart group of individuals in every sport. How many others exist.

I don’t want to get into this too much more than this. My basic message was around:

– Where do you draw your own line in the sand?
– Where does this line allow you to throw stones?
– Who are you throwing stones at?
– Why are you throwing stones?

The never-ending debate, because our sports heroes are just that – heroes – and we want to see our heroes win at all costs, as long as it doesn’t affect our moral compass.

Thanks for listening.

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