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Wiggins defends drug use on BBC's Andrew Marr Show

2012 Tour de France winner insists taking medication with UCI approval to treat a condition isn't cheating...

Sir Bradley Wiggins has appeared on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show to defend his use on medical grounds of banned substances ahead of key races including the Tour de France in 2012, when he became the first Briton to win cycling’s biggest race.

Earlier this month, the Fancy Bears computer hacking group published copies of Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) certificates issued by the UCI to Wiggins that revealed, among other things, that he had received intramuscular injections of triamcinolone ahead of the Tour de France in 2011 and 2012 and the Giro d’Italia in 2013.

The certificates noted Wiggins’ “life long allergy to pollen,” resulting in symptoms including “nasal congestion/rhinorrhea, sneezing, throat irritation, wheezing leading to dyspnoea, eye watering [and] runny nose,” and also highlighted a “known allergy to grass pollen.”

Former professional cyclists David Millar and Jörg Jaksche have both admitted having used the drug during their career, with the former saying it had an effect on him beyond that of any other banned substance he ever took, and the latter saying that Wiggins’ pattern of use of it was similar to how it had been used during his period he was riding to enhance performance.

> Wiggins TUEs questioned

But in a pre-recorded interview with Marr, Wiggins drew a distinction between his use of the drug with the permission of medical professionals and the UCI, and that of riders who had used it specifically to gain an unfair advantage.

“It was prescribed for allergies and respiratory problems,” said the 36-year-old. “I’ve been a lifelong sufferer of asthma and I went to my team doctor at the time and we went in turn to a specialist to see if there’s anything else we could do to cure these problems.

“And he in turn said: ‘Yeah, there’s something you can do but you’re going to need authorisation from cycling’s governing body’.”

He said that the 2012 TUE was only secured once the opinion of a specialist in respiratory conditions had been backed up by three independent doctors.

“This was to cure a medical condition,” Wiggins insisted. “This wasn’t about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage, this was about putting myself back on a level playing field in order to compete at the highest level.”

Wiggins has also come under fire due to the nature of the administration of the drug, via injection, especially given comments he made about the use of needles in his 2012 autobiography My Time – a book, moreover, that made no mention of his allergies.

But Wiggins again claimed to Marr that there is a distinction between injections permitted on medical grounds under a TUE and those administered as part of a doping programme.

“It was always a loaded question with regards to doping,” he insisted. “Intravenous injections of iron, EPO etc, no-one ever asked the question: ‘Have you ever had an injection by a medical professional to treat or cure a medical condition?’

“There are two sides to that, and at that period of time it was very much with a doping emphasis in the question.”

Marr, while emphasising that there was no suggestion Wiggins had cheated, put it to him that he and Team Sky had pushed right about against the boundary between what is allowed and what isn’t.

Wiggins’ response was that Sky had always operated within the rules laid down by the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

He added that with his Tour de France victory coinciding with the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation into Lance Armstrong that in October 2012 saw the American banned from cycling for life, he himself came under particular scrutiny while wearing the yellow jersey that summer.

“Cycling has been through a very turbulent period the last couple of years in the post Lance Armstrong era, and obviously I won the Tour de France right at the height of that in 2012,” he told Marr.

“It’s still an open wound in cycling and it will take many years to get over that, especially for the guys that are winning and competing at performing at the Tour De France.

“Whoever is leading in the sport at that time, and at the moment it’s Team Sky, they’re leading the way, and you know, they’re setting the standard for everybody. And they’re the best at what they do.

“Unfortunately, when you’re the best of what you do sometimes comes scrutiny, especially in a sport that has a tainted history,” he added.

The episode will be available for the next four weeks to viewers in the UK via BBC iPlayer.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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47 comments

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kcr | 7 years ago
0 likes

Thanks for those links. I was making no assumptions about the Wiggins case and his guilt or innocence, but I'm interested in facts that inform me, rather than people simply saying "things look dodgy".

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DuncanS | 7 years ago
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Wiggins came across very badly indeed, but he is a mere pawn in a bigger game. It is the UCI who need hounding. http://angrysoutherneroopnorth.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/playing-within-rul...

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RMurphy195 | 7 years ago
1 like

I'm completely flummoxed by this whole thing.

A few short weeks ago we were - and still are - rejoicing in the success of our athletes some of whom were competing despite disability, illness, physical pain, lifetime disabilities, heart problems and illnesses and so on and so forth.

Do the naysayers on here really think that athletes that are prone to illness are not allowed to take medication for it - approved medication yet, under strict controls - like the rest of us sufferers from asthma, diabetes, pneumonia and, for our disabled athletes, a few other things as well.?

Do they think that only the winners of these effents had TUE's, the rest suffering with thier illnesses without medical help?

I think if there is a problem wih what is allowed/disallowed then publication and discussion of the WADA rules and procedures BEFORE the event is the way to go, not slagging-off the successful individuals and publishing thier confidential medical rcords after it.

 

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Skylark | 7 years ago
0 likes

The Muppet is strong with this one.

 

Every decade there seems to be a new one. At least.

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surly_by_name | 7 years ago
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Surely all this is a reason why TUEs should be public? That way the viewing public can be responsible for bringing moral pressure to bear on UCI or WADA to ban/regulate drugs that are currently permitted with a TUE.

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pwake | 7 years ago
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If this was such a performance enhancer and not merely a medication to treat a genuine ailment (as would've been examined by an independent panel for every TUE), then you think he would've taken a shot prior to the hour record attempt?

Guess you have to be selective with your facts when you've got your pitchfork out.

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Jackson replied to pwake | 7 years ago
2 likes
pwake wrote:

If this was such a performance enhancer and not merely a medication to treat a genuine ailment (as would've been examined by an independent panel for every TUE), then you think he would've taken a shot prior to the hour record attempt?

Guess you have to be selective with your facts when you've got your pitchfork out.

Because cutting weight and improving recovery isn't important in a one hour rested effort on a flat track.

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kcr replied to Jackson | 7 years ago
0 likes
Jackson wrote:
pwake wrote:

If this was such a performance enhancer and not merely a medication to treat a genuine ailment (as would've been examined by an independent panel for every TUE), then you think he would've taken a shot prior to the hour record attempt?

Guess you have to be selective with your facts when you've got your pitchfork out.

Because cutting weight and improving recovery isn't important in a one hour rested effort on a flat track.

Triamcinolone is catabolic, so I believe it consumes fat and muscle. That sounds a counterproductive method of weight loss, unless you are taking something else, like Millar, to counteract the effect.
Has any credible scientific source stated that triamcinolone improves recovery, and how does it do that?

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Jackson replied to kcr | 7 years ago
2 likes
kcr wrote:
Jackson wrote:
pwake wrote:

If this was such a performance enhancer and not merely a medication to treat a genuine ailment (as would've been examined by an independent panel for every TUE), then you think he would've taken a shot prior to the hour record attempt?

Guess you have to be selective with your facts when you've got your pitchfork out.

Because cutting weight and improving recovery isn't important in a one hour rested effort on a flat track.

Triamcinolone is catabolic, so I believe it consumes fat and muscle. That sounds a counterproductive method of weight loss, unless you are taking something else, like Millar, to counteract the effect. Has any credible scientific source stated that triamcinolone improves recovery, and how does it do that?

 

The onus is not on internet commenters to re-prove that every class of drugs banned by WADA is in fact performance enhancing. But since you asked, see:

K Collomp, "Short term glucocorticoid intake combined with intense training on performance and hormonal responses"

M Duclos, "Glucocorticoids: a doping agent"

Yes, actual peer-reviewed science, not "The Telegraph said it was okay". I find it hilarious the lengths people are going to to convince themselves this is all fine. No Dr is prescribing injections of this stuff for mild/moderate asthma cases. It's the exact same stuff Lance got popped for in the 1999 TdF.

 

 

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kcr | 7 years ago
3 likes

Can anyone actually identify how this drug would be used to enhance performance (with proper evidence)?
If you are suggesting the TUE was not a genuine allergy treatment, the obvious way to support that argument is to demonstrate how it would enhance performance, but noone seems to have done this.
I don't find Millar's "expert" opinion on its effects very credible, given the other drugs he was also using. Even the cycling doctors criticising Wiggins don't seem to be explaining how the drug would boost performance.
I've seen "increased pain tolerance" and "improved recovery" mentioned, but is there any medical evidence to support that?
I've also seen "weight loss" suggested, but it's a catabolic steroid that consumes muscle as well as fat (often creating a large divot at the injection site) which doesn't sound a terribly effective way to go faster.

So is there any science backed evidence for a mechanism to enhance performance with this drug?

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700c replied to kcr | 7 years ago
2 likes
kcr wrote:

Can anyone actually identify how this drug would be used to enhance performance (with proper evidence)?
If you are suggesting the TUE was not a genuine allergy treatment, the obvious way to support that argument is to demonstrate how it would enhance performance, but noone seems to have done this.
I don't find Millar's "expert" opinion on its effects very credible, given the other drugs he was also using. Even the cycling doctors criticising Wiggins don't seem to be explaining how the drug would boost performance.
I've seen "increased pain tolerance" and "improved recovery" mentioned, but is there any medical evidence to support that?
I've also seen "weight loss" suggested, but it's a catabolic steroid that consumes muscle as well as fat (often creating a large divot at the injection site) which doesn't sound a terribly effective way to go faster.

So is there any science backed evidence for a mechanism to enhance performance with this drug?

Come on, it's pitch forks first, evidence second, you know that  3

It's irrational being selective and whinging about one guy. Bring all TUE's out into the open, identify what the proven effects are of the available treatments, lobby for rule changes if any are shown to give an unfair advantage. Apply new rules equally and not retrospectively.

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psling | 7 years ago
1 like

Why do so many people get indignant when people taking part in competitive sport push the rules to the very limit to gain an advantage.

It happens in all sports; there are rules and then there are people who want to win at all costs.  The rules get examined in their minutiae and are then bent to the extreme without breaking them. This may be morally corrupt to a lot of us but it goes on all the time, even at Club level or Sportive level.

Whether it involves the body - using protein powders, inhalers, caffeine, weight loss tablets, etc. - or the equipment - aero spokes, aero rims, minimal bike weight, helmets, skinsuits, etc. - or the event itself - entering a lower class, misinformation on entry, etc. -  the rules are pushed to the limit by people who want to win. We all try to improve our performance one way or another, even subconciously sometimes because 'it's what everyone does'. People spaff a heap of money on buying equipment to make them faster, more competitive, even at the lowest level of competition.

At a much higher level, Wiggins and Sky have done just this; they haven't broken the rules, they've just pushed them to the limit to gain advantage and have been less than honest/open about doing such things. Morally unacceptable perhaps, cheating by definition perhaps but actually breaking the rules? Well, no.

 

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Arceye | 7 years ago
2 likes

Wow.

“This wasn’t about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage, this was about putting myself back on a level playing field in order to compete at the highest level.”

Has never been heard before in the history of cycling has it. 

Without the medical assistance it wasn't posible for the cyclist to perform at the highest level was it?  So using it is cheating

The stange thing I see is all these elite cyclists who apparently suffer from asthma, I remember being at school and nobody who actually suffered from asthma could perform well in physical activity so how could they possibly be spotted as potential athletes ? 

Exersise induced asthma....    struggling to breath, coughing and wheezing are signs of a sustained hard physical effort.

 

When drugs are used to increase ability beyond the persons natural ability then it is cheating regardless of the BS excuse for using the substance. 

 

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Yorkshire wallet replied to Arceye | 7 years ago
1 like
Arceye wrote:

 

When drugs are used to increase ability beyond the persons natural ability then it is cheating regardless of the BS excuse for using the substance. 

 

 

Exactly. Sport isn't about level playing fields, it's about beating the competition through differences in physical ability. Elite sport is pretty much about who is the biggest freak of nature, you can't be an elite athlete on willpower alone.

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dottigirl | 7 years ago
1 like
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the_mth | 7 years ago
0 likes

Surely the best way to handle TUEs is to have a register where any active exemptions are published so everybody knows what everyone else is doing. If there are privacy concerns then just list the team name or only make the list available to the appropriate people in all the teams. At least that way is the data is known to some degree it would keep teams honest.

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Must be Mad | 7 years ago
1 like
Quote:

They didn't break any rules, true, but remember Team Sky prided itself on its "zero tolerance" policy, it was a huge PR win in the post-Armstrong era

I think you will find its 'zero tolerance' against cheeting, not 'zero tolerance' against taking approved medication.

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Jackson replied to Must be Mad | 7 years ago
3 likes
Must be Mad wrote:
Quote:

They didn't break any rules, true, but remember Team Sky prided itself on its "zero tolerance" policy, it was a huge PR win in the post-Armstrong era

I think you will find its 'zero tolerance' against cheeting, not 'zero tolerance' against taking approved medication.

 

Ah yes, it wasn't the "no needles" policy, it was the famous "no needles, until we need a way of administering some drugs intramuscularly or intravenously" policy.

 

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Canyon48 | 7 years ago
3 likes

This is all a bit stupid really. In terms of the rules, they broke none.

They did everything by the book, documented it all, applied for the needed exemptions and were granted them.

So if any cyclists have gained an unfair advantage by using a T.U.E. (I have no idea of what, if any, advantage could be gained from whatever whoever took) then the problem lies within the rules which allow T.U.E.'s .

The worst thing of which anyone can be accused is carefully using the rules to their advantage. I wonder which other teams have done very similar things?

Maybe a rule change is needed? I'm not a doctor, so I don't know!

 

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Shanghaied replied to Canyon48 | 7 years ago
3 likes
wellsprop wrote:

This is all a bit stupid really. In terms of the rules, they broke none.

They did everything by the book, documented it all, applied for the needed exemptions and were granted them.

So if any cyclists have gained an unfair advantage by using a T.U.E. (I have no idea of what, if any, advantage could be gained from whatever whoever took) then the problem lies within the rules which allow T.U.E.'s .

The worst thing of which anyone can be accused is carefully using the rules to their advantage. I wonder which other teams have done very similar things?

Maybe a rule change is needed? I'm not a doctor, so I don't know!

 

They didn't break any rules, true, but remember Team Sky prided itself on its "zero tolerance" policy, it was a huge PR win in the post-Armstrong era. But now we know they were pushing the limits, same as everyone else. If a haulage firm or a bus company says they have a "zero tolerance" policy to alcohol on the job, people would assume that their drivers are clean, period, not driving all day at 1mg under the limit. And people would feel understandably duped if the latter was discovered to be the case.

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notfastenough replied to Canyon48 | 7 years ago
2 likes
wellsprop wrote:

This is all a bit stupid really. In terms of the rules, they broke none.

They did everything by the book, documented it all, applied for the needed exemptions and were granted them.

So if any cyclists have gained an unfair advantage by using a T.U.E. (I have no idea of what, if any, advantage could be gained from whatever whoever took) then the problem lies within the rules which allow T.U.E.'s .

The worst thing of which anyone can be accused is carefully using the rules to their advantage. I wonder which other teams have done very similar things?

Maybe a rule change is needed? I'm not a doctor, so I don't know!

 

Precisely.  At the elite level (of anything - business, sport, whatever), if you want to win, you play by the rules, but that means exploiting all the opportunities up to the limit of the rule.

If you want to be really cynical, you could argue that this is part of the essence of marginal gains.

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MandaiMetric replied to notfastenough | 7 years ago
2 likes
notfastenough wrote:

Precisely.  At the elite level (of anything - business, sport, whatever), if you want to win, you play by the rules, but that means exploiting all the opportunities up to the limit of the rule.

If you want to be really cynical, you could argue that this is part of the essence of marginal gains.

If that's what the elite sportmen and women believe, then why the deception. Why say "no needles" and "I was in great shape and hadn't been ill" in the lead up to a grand tour, when the reality is you've been prescribed major performance impacting injections... 

Personally, I don't like "elite" businesses when they get sweet tax deals, and I don't like elite sports people who lie, cheat or deceive.

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Bill H | 7 years ago
2 likes

Storm in a teacup. The rules were followed and the authorities were up to speed with exactly what was going on. Just a shame that it was never admitted to from day one.

I just hope that come the new season we will not have to sit thru' serial dopers who lifted their haemocrit to near 50% with EPO claiming to be no worse than Bradley Wiggins. 

 

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pwake | 7 years ago
1 like

"Former professional cyclists David Millar and Jörg Jaksche have both admitted having used the drug during their career, with the former saying it had an effect on him beyond that of any other banned substance he ever took."

Better than EPO then? Think Millar's stilled pissed-off that Wiggins left Slipstream for Sky...

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pwake | 7 years ago
0 likes

"Former professional cyclists David Millar and Jörg Jaksche have both admitted having used the drug during their career, with the former saying it had an effect on him beyond that of any other banned substance he ever took."

Better than EPO then? Think Millar's stilled pissed-off that Wiggins left Slipstream for Sky...

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Hipshot | 7 years ago
4 likes

I agree that the interview was a mistake and self defeating. 

No one is accusing Wiggins of straight out doping, just hiding the truth and perhaps not abiding by the spirit of the rules. It's true, a better PR adviser would have encouraged him to keep his head down, but I suppose it's hard to be on such a high and then have the rug pulled.  You would want to get back on come what may. 

I've always found it curious how SKY (and coincidentally Rapha) are so unloved by many cyclists - at least the ones I know -  but this episode helps explain why.  There is a definite perceived arrogance at play here, that they are too big for their own boots. Now that their two champions have been tainted, their bus drivers better start giving more room to cyclists or they might as well pack it in now.

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MandaiMetric replied to Hipshot | 7 years ago
0 likes
Hipshot wrote:

No one is accusing Wiggins of straight out doping, just hiding the truth and perhaps not abiding by the spirit of the rules.

This. +1

Is this Wiggins interview available to stream from outside UK?

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Jimnm | 7 years ago
2 likes

Poor Brad being persecuted just because he suffers from breathing difficulties.

its just not fair!   3

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Aquilo | 7 years ago
1 like

Froomy is the new winner of the tour of 2012!!!

Come on Brad, for once, be a man and give him the yellow jersey!

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Joeinpoole | 7 years ago
9 likes

Wiggins complied with the rules of the sport in their entirety. He had a medical condition and was prescribed a drug and dosage by clinical experts in that field. Their advice was scrutinised and accepted by 3 independent doctors in the granting of the TUE. End of.

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