Category Archives: Drugs testing

TUEs, pushing the boundaries of WADA

Asthma inhalerOne of the many issues and discussion points in doping is the use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) by athletes. It’s been more of a talking point after the Fancy Bears’ leaks though so we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the topic and discuss its impact on canoeing / kayaking.

What are TUEs?

If an athlete needs to take a medicine for an illness, but the medicine is prohibited by the World Anti Doping Agency, WADA, (the agency that sets and monitors anti doping policy around the world) then they can apply to get permission to use the medicine. Generally the application is done through their National Governing Body. A doctor has to say they are genuinely in need of the medication and sign off on it, and they must fulfil all four of the below criteria [1]:

  • The athlete would experience significant health problems without taking the prohibited substance or method
  • The therapeutic use of the substance would not produce significant enhancement of performance
  • There is no reasonable therapeutic alternative to the use of the otherwise prohibited substance or method
  • The requirement to use that substance or method is not due to the prior use of the substance or method without a TUE which was prohibited at the time of use.

If you need emergency treatment then you can receive it and then apply for a retroactive TUE after the treatment (to make sure athletes aren’t going to start turning down necessary treatments or anything crazy). This is all in place to try and make sure that the TUEs are used to keep athletes healthy but not provide any advantage to those receiving them. However, the world of sport has shown again and again that people will try and push boundaries and take advantages where they can find them.

Can TUEs be abused?

If you’re allowed to apply to take drugs that are normally banned because they can be performance enhancing then there’s an obvious follow on that maybe you can take them for precisely those performance benefits… Continue reading

The state of anti-doping and drugs testing in canoeing and kayaking


Assorted pills

People seem to be happy to talk about drugs in athletics and cycling these days, people like Gatlin get derided and left out in the cold and people refuse to forgive them for their failed drug tests in the past. Anyone winning the tour de France is given some healthy suspicion. The competitors and governing bodies of these sports point to their drugs testing programs, which without a doubt are making big improvements, alongside WADA. Improvements include the biological passport, increased awareness and media pressure and new more sophisticated tests, which all make it harder to cheat. But what about canoeing?  What are we doing? Canoeing is a smaller sport with less of a media spotlight, despite its presence in the Olympics, but little is ever mentioned about testing and drugs within the sport.

Clearly we all want a clean and fair sport for everyone to enjoy, but in order to get that everyone needs to be engaged. There isn’t a huge amount of testing within canoe / kayak, especially within certain disciplines, and a lot of the time there isn’t much discussion about the potential that there could be athletes who aren’t clean. It’s taboo to suggest that the sport isn’t perfect, but doing so isn’t to cast aspersions on individuals, it is merely to point out that more can always be done to keep drugs out.

Canoeing and kayaking statistics

We decided to have a look at the 2014 testing figures to get an idea of what is going on in the sport. According to the WADA figures, canoe / kayak carried out 4,485 tests in 2014. The vast majority of the test were urine tests, and only 0.5% came back with an Adverse Analytical Finding (which it should be noted isn’t necessarily a failed test).

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