Use of drug open to abuse under TUE system, according to WADA director general

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is considering introducing a blanket ban on the use of corticosteroids, such as the drug used by Bradley Wiggins before his 2012 Tour de France victory.

Speaking at the Tackling Doping in Sport conference, WADA director general Oliver Niggli said that his organisation had set up a working group to examine the use of triamcinolone and other corticosteroids in sport, saying that the current system is open to abuse.

“It is an unsatisfactory situation, we all agree with that,” Niggli said “and we have set up a group to try to come up with better proposal to how we can do it.

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“The hope has been for a number of years that research would bring us a detection method that would distinguish the route of administration. Reality is that it doesn’t seem that easy to come up with a method to allow us to do that distinction.

“We are now at a stage where we needed to have a number of discussions about how we deal with that. In my view, I agree the system as it is now is not good.

“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.”


Watch: Nicole Sapstead gives evidence to MPs


Wiggins received therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for triamcinolone prior to the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and the 2013 Giro d’Italia, meaning that he was allowed to take this otherwise banned drug to treat asthma and hay fever, which Wiggins said put him “back on a level playing field”.

However David Millar, who was banned for doping offences in 2004, claimed that as well as treating asthma and hay fever, the drug has the effect of reducing a rider’s weight without them losing power.

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The news of the WADA’s decision to examine the issue of corticosteroids was welcomed by Nicole Sapstead, the chair of UK Anti-Doping.

“If they were to introduce an outright ban then great,” Sapstead told the Telegraph.

“Our view is that they [corticosteroids] aren’t always being administered in a way that’s reflective of an individual’s actual medical needs and that can’t be right when somebody doesn’t actually have a medical problem that warrants that use because it then has some additional effects that they can benefit from.”

No time frame has been given for the working group to reach its conclusions.