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Speaking in the wake of the Fancy Bears’ hack of athlete data and the related leak of Therepuetic Use Exemption (TUE) data into the public domain, the World Anti Doping Agency has defended the TUE system.
In a statement released on Thursday, the agency’s TUE expert group has said that there has been ‘a lot of discussion and misinformation relating to the TUE program’ as a result of the leak.
It also describes the system as ‘a rigorous and necessary part of elite sport that has overwhelming acceptance from athletes, physicians and anti-doping stakeholders worldwide.’
The expert group didn’t speak about individual cases, nor did it indicate where it felt misinformation had occurred.
Significantly, it said that with the right budget it would be open to stepping up verification that things were being done correctly.
“In addition to the current surveillance of TUE applications submitted to ADAMS, increased resources would allow a regular audit of TUE Committee composition and process,” it stated. “This audit would further enhance the credibility of the whole TUE process.”
The TUE Expert Group opinion was issued to WADA by the chair of that group Professor David Gerrard. It was released after the Group’s meeting on September 23.
The statement is as follows:
The TUE EG would like to express; while, at the same time, applaud the recent stand by the WADA Executive Committee to reinforce its leadership in the preservation of clean sport.
The TUE EG represents a significant body of international experience in clinical sports medicine across able bodied and Paralympic disciplines. As senior physicians we willingly contribute to this critical arm of the work of WADA, while recording our extreme gratitude for the work of the WADA Medical Director and his staff.
Our concern relates to the recent, widely publicized events that have brought the principles of therapeutic use exemption into disrepute and challenge the integrity of a process fundamental to the protection of the rights of honest athletes and their medical advisors.
With your approval, and at the discretion of the WADA Executive Committee, we respectfully request that the following sentiments are conveyed to relevant stakeholders.
1. The WADA TUE Expert Group confirms its unequivocal support for the existing process by which athletes with genuine medical conditions may obtain appropriate clinical care and remain active in sport.
2. The integrity of this process remains fundamental to the spirit of clean sport and has not been represented accurately by recent media reports following the hacking of WADA files.
3. A reported “upsurge” of applications, to use medications that are prohibited through the TUE process, is a reflection of growing stakeholder compliance with ADAMS rather than exploitation of any loophole to circumvent a legitimate process.
4. The overwhelming majority of applications for therapeutic use exemption are in full accordance with WADA clinical standards and the ISTUE.
5. In addition to the current surveillance of TUE applications submitted to ADAMS, increased resources would allow a regular audit of TUE Committee composition and process. This audit would further enhance the credibility of the whole TUE process.
The statement ended with a message of full endorsement of the efforts made by WADA to maintain the integrity of sport. It also said that the group was fully committed to achieving that goal.
“As the only group within WADA comprised solely of physicians, we respectfully offer our expertise in helping to address the public concerns of the TUE process that is founded on good clinical practice and is in accordance with the ethics of our profession.”
The message was signed by the Chair Professor David Gerrar, as well as the other members of the TUE Expert Group. These are Dr Katharina Grimm (RSA), Dr Ola Ronsen (NOR), Dr Katja Mjosund (FIN), Dr Susan White (AUS), Dr James Kissick (CAN), Dr Chin Sim Teoh (SIN), Dr John Lombardo (USA) and Dr Michael Turner (UK).
Athletes across a range of sports have been part of the leak. Cyclists include 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, 2013, 2015 and 2016 champion Chris Froome and track rider Calum Skinner.