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Russia athlete blasts 'hypocritic' west

Press Association logoPress Association 16/09/2016 By Matt Slater

Russian 110 metres hurdles world champion athlete Sergey Shubenkov has accused western countries of "hypocrisy" over the widespread use of doctor's notes to enable athletes to take medicine which would otherwise be prohibited under anti-doping regulations.

Shubenkov, who was prevented from competing at the Rio Games because of Russian athletics' global ban for state-sponsored doping, was speaking after a Russian cyber espionage group calling itself the Fancy Bears leaked documents relating to the therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) granted to 29 athletes from the WADA's data storage system.

Nearly half of these athletes are American, with tennis sisters Serena and Venus Williams and gymnastics champion Simone Biles being the biggest names to have their TUEs leaked online so far, but five British Olympians, including cycling stars Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins, have also been targeted.

The TUEs detail medication that has been prescribed to treat allergies, asthma and other long-term medical conditions, and they were all approved by the relevant authorities, including WADA.

But Shubenkov told PA Sport he was angry about what he sees as a clear case of "double standards".

"I don't know where to start but I'm really mad about this situation," the two-time European champion said.

"I don't know if somebody is abusing TUEs or not - I'm not in possession of the facts - but it sometimes feels like that, especially when you are talking about asthma.

"WADA claims it cares about protecting clean athletes - but not clean athletes from Russia, of course - and it says doping is an absolute evil.

"So presumably I'm being punished for insufficient zero-tolerance of doping in my country. But now it appears that doping is actually acceptable in some cases, under some conditions.

"In 2014, only about two-thirds of positive cases worldwide were anti-doping violations; the rest were TUEs and other exonerations. Hypocrisy, double standards, call it what you like."

Shubenkov added that TUEs are very rarely used by Russian athletes, although a cynic might say that is because they are using different methods to evade testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

While most anti-doping experts have dismissed the Fancy Bears' claims to being whistle-blowers and have attacked them for stealing personal data, the leaking of so many TUEs, from such high-profile athletes, has reignited the debate about what is and is not allowed under the rules.

Rod Jaques, the English Institute of Sport's director of medical services and Team GB's lead doctor at five Olympics, told PA that TUEs are only meant to "restore an athletes' health control to normal and not enhance performance above normal".

He added that in the UK exemptions to use drugs normally banned by WADA are only granted by a panel of experts when they are certain there was "no other reasonable therapeutic option", and the panel's decision is then endorsed by the athlete's relevant international federation.

But Roger Pielke Jr from the University of Colorado's Sports Governance Centre believes the lack of transparency on TUEs has helped "to breed suspicion" about their misuse.

"Even (United States Anti-Doping Agency boss) Travis Tygart has said that the TUE system is open to abuse," said Pielke, the author of 'The Edge: The War Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cut-throat World of Elite Sports'

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