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Wiggins TUE controversy puts pressure on teams, UCI

David Millar speaks out about Bradley Wiggins's questionable TUE records. Will the UCI and WADA be forced to make changes to the system?

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MILAN (VN) —The Bradley Wiggins TUE controversy has shifted the pressure back on teams and cycling governing bodies to act. Some teams, adhering to their own anti-doping rules, are already avoiding the grey area of injecting asthma medications.

Last week, Russian hacker group “Fancy Bears” started leaking athletes’ therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) on its website. The documents showed 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins had permission to inject triamcinolone, a corticosteroid, prior to the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Tour, and the 2013 Giro d’Italia.

This week, more athletes had their TUEs leaked. British distance runner Mo Farah, like Wiggins, had permission to inject triamcinolone once, and Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal had a series of questionable TUEs.

“As I said in my book [“Racing Through The Dark”], I took EPO and testosterone patches, and they obviously produce huge differences in your blood and you felt at your top level … Kenacort [triamcinolone], though, was the only one you took and three days later you looked different,” former pro David Millar told The Telegraph.

“You would do all the training, but my weight would stick. But if I took Kenacort, 1.5-2kgs would drop off in like a week. And not only would the weight drop off, I would feel stronger.

To be clear, Wiggins’s files do not indicate cheating with banned drugs. He and Team Sky played by the rules, but entered a gray area that some teams are already avoiding with their membership in the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC).

“TUEs are one’s medical information to share or not,” Anko Boelens, Giant – Alpecin team doctor told VeloNews. “I would never push for it needing to be mandatory to reveal what medication you are using. If you do that, you need to go one step further to show the tests that they are taking, like that Wiggins does have a pollen allergy. In our case, as a MPCC member, we would not ask for the TUE for corticosteroids.”

Teams in the MPCC, run by former cycling manager, Frenchman Roger Legeay, adhere to a separate set of rules above what the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the UCI require. One rule states that a team must pull a rider from competition for eight days if he needs to use a corticosteroid for asthma.

The movement gained speed after the 2012 Lance Armstrong scandal. In the last couple of years, some teams left for various reasons. Now, it numbers seven of the 18 WorldTour teams with Giant – Alpecin, Ag2r La Mondiale, Cannondale – Drapac, FDJ, IAM Cycling, Dimension Data, and Lotto – Soudal. Teams like Sky and Etixx – Quick-Step have never been members.

The MPCC said earlier this year that it wants the UCI to follow its rules on cortisol levels, a test which blocked Chris Horner from defending his Vuelta a España title in 2014, and for WADA to add corticosteroids to its banned list.

The move to block athletes from using a corticosteroid like triamcinolone makes sense to Millar, who confessed in 2004 to using EPO and other drugs.

“I’m sure there are other forms of cortisone that could be used for allergies, which aren’t so potent or performance-enhancing,” Millar said. “And if we’re suffering from that serious an issue, we shouldn’t be racing. I don’t know how a doctor could prescribe it [before a race]. I can’t fathom it.”

The UCI and WADA could change their rules as the years pass, and more controversies pop up, but the TUE process is a complicated one. The teams, however, may have to take voluntary steps like those the MPCC present.