don’t get mad

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote a scathing piece condemning the state-sponsored approach towards systematic doping taken by the Russian Olympics & Paralympics Federations and contrasting it with that of our own. Broadly speaking, my argument was based upon our two very different, but somehow strangely similar, approaches to the quest for international sporting recognition: ours was to spank the cash, there’s was to inject the dope. However, as it’s recently transpired, perhaps our two systems are even more similar than I alluded to.

Thanks to the subversive efforts of the Fancy Bears’ hacking group (allegedly Russia’s Security Agency, y’honour) we are now aware of the complete medical records of, amongst others, Rio gold medallist Fabian ‘Spartacus’ Cancellara, US distance runner Galen Rupp and last month’s Tour of Britain winner, Steve Cummings. A total of 41 athletes’ records were leaked, including five Great Britain stars – sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, sailors Sophie Ainsworth & Saskia Clark, gymnast Nile Wilson & rower Richard Chambers. However, having been a follower of the Tour de France for many years, it was Sir Wiggo’s revelations that surprised me the most. I have long argued that Bradley has, in the face of both team & peloton pressure, ridden clean and has bucked the age-old trend and norm. Lance, bad boy. Wiggo, good boy. Or is he?

This fifth release of leaked info focuses on therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) which officially allow the athletes to imbibe substances banned to all others, due to their medical condition. The condition most usually associated with TUEs is asthma. The revelation that Wiggins was given three officially sanctioned injections before the 2011 & 2012 Tour and 2013’s Giro (Italy’s version) are particularly worrying. Or was it just a coincidence he was suffering a bad bout of asthma? If he was, should he not have accepted the fact that he wasn’t going to be on tip-top form and maybe the yellow jersey was going to evade him one more time, rather than loading the syringe and pumping 40mg of triamcinolone (or intramuscular cortisone) into a bony buttock? When your former team doctor (Team Garmin’s Prentice Steffen) goes on the record as saying “looking at the drugs, and at the dates, this looks very suspicious” you know it ain’t going to end well.

The once enfant-terrible of British cycling, the banned and rehabilitated, David Miller, described the cortisone as “THE most powerful drug out there, and one that, with the right prescription, could be used entirely legally”. And yes, there we have it – with the right prescription. Not necessarily the condition, just the prescription.

From these results it seems to be that one of the best chances of achieving those life-defining golden baubles (and a future supply of reality TV pay cheques) is to ensure you suffer from asthma, epilepsy, ADHD or saddle-sores! Whilst it may be the case that extreme endurance & physical exertion may potentially exacerbate certain symptoms, I simply refuse to be hood-winked into believing so many extremely fit & well-conditioned ‘perfect specimens’ suffer from the conditions badly enough to warrant such a drastic course of medical intervention. Sorry, Bradley.

So, my initial analysis into the subject, whilst not entirely incorrect, certainly needs updating: Russia broke the rules. Great Britain didn’t, we just bent them, twisted them, to within a millimetre of their very existence. It doesn’t make me feel particularly good about our Rio achievements, or the number of yellow jerseys that hang on the walls of Sky HQ. A month ago, Russia might have been mad, mad, mad but they sure as hell got even.