British Cycling concerned about ‘substantial breach of privacy’ over Dame Sarah Storey’s backdated TUE for salbutamol

The governing body said it is worried about how the revelation could impact athletes who require medical treatment

Dame Sarah Storey
(Image credit: Getty Images)

British Cycling has raised concerns about the “substantial breach of privacy” after news emerged that Dame Sarah Storey was given a backdated TUE for salbutamol at the London 2012 Paralympics.

On Monday (May 10), The Times newspaper revealed that 14-time Paralympic gold medalist Storey had to be issued with a retroactive therapeutic use exemption, after returning an adverse analytical finding for the asthma medication during the London games. 

Salbutamol is considered to be a performance enhancing substance in high doses by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), but athletes can apply for an exemption for medical reasons.

During the 2012 games, where she won four gold medals, Storey was found to have exceeded the allowed limit of salbutamol, with officials from the British Paralympic Association (BPA) then applying for a retroactive TUE on behalf of the athlete. 

As news of the backdated TUE emerged this week, national governing body British Cycling said it is concerned the revelations could impact the health of athletes, who may be reluctant to seek treatment for fear their medical records could be leaked to the public. 

A spokesperson for British Cycling said: “As one of our responsibilities as a governing body is to give a voice to athletes in our sport, we must raise concerns at what would appear to be a substantial breach of privacy without a substantial demonstration that this was in the public interest.

“One of the reasons why WADA’s processes are confidential is to protect athlete well-being so we are particularly concerned by the impact stories like this could have on athletes who may under-use their medicine, and harm their health, rather than risk their private medical records becoming public in the future.”

Storey’s case came after she was tested regularly following her first gold medal at the London Paralympics in late August 2012, returning an adverse analytical finding soon after and subsequently being issued a TUE permitting the use of the substance. Usually, TUEs are obtained in advance. 

According to The Times, Storey was not informed of her AAF until she had won three more gold medals. 

The British Paralympic Association (BPA) has told the Telegraph it’s confident everything was done by the book, with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), WADA and the UCI all aware of the situation. 

Storey does not deny that she returned an adverse analytical finding.

The now-43-year-old also said that having been diagnosed with asthma as a child she has since become “less inclined” to use her inhaler after races “given the way retroactive TUEs have been portrayed by the press”.

British Cycling said: “Our understanding is that both the British Paralympic Association and the rider followed the appropriate processes, and that the International Paralympic Committee, UK Anti-Doping and the World Anti-Doping Agency have raised no concerns either at the time or since.”

British Grand Tour star Froome was also involved in a controversy around the use of salbutamol, after he returned an AAF for the substance after stage of the 2017 Vuelta a España, which he won overall. 

Froome was later cleared of any wrongdoing, as the UCI said the seven-time Grand Tour winner had provided enough evidence to dismiss the case. 

>>> Elia Viviani apologises to Davide Cimolai for altercation after finish of stage three at Giro d’Italia 2021 

But recently leaked discussions between the UCI and WADA revealed tensions over the way the case was handled. 

The UCI raised concerns about WADA’s salbutamol enforcement, while WADA said it was “disappointing” and “wrong” that the UCI was claiming it had no choice but to close the case, saying WADA had no influence on the process.