Mo Farah and Rafael Nadal named in latest Fancy Bears leak
Mo Farah is the latest British athlete to face scrutiny over his use of so-called therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) after his confidential medical data was leaked online. Farah, the double gold medallist at the 2016 Olympic Games, is one of eight more British athletes who competed in Rio de Janeiro whose records were released on Monday by the Fancy Bears hacking group, believed to have links to Russia.
Helen Glover, Justin Rose and three of the triumphant Great Britain women’s hockey team are among the 26 athletes affected, along with Rafael Nadal, the Spanish 14-times grand slam tennis champion.
There were no surprises in the leak of Farah’s data, which confirmed that he had been granted two TUEs over the past eight years. Farah, also under pressure over his links with the controversial coaches Alberto Salazar and Jama Aden, confirmed in the past that he had applied for two legitimate TUEs, although he initially claimed to have had only one.
In Birmingham in 2015, in the immediate aftermath of strenuously denied allegations against Salazar, Farah was asked specifically whether he had ever applied for an exemption. He said: “Yes I’ve had one TUE and that was in Park City, I collapsed on the floor, was taken in an ambulance and put on a drip. That was the only one.”
That was a reference to an incident when he collapsed after a training run at high altitude and had to be airlifted to hospital. But in an interview with Sky Sports News three weeks later, as the pressure on him over his relationship with Salazar intensified, Farah appeared to clarify his earlier statement.
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“I’ve had two, I’ve had one recently in Park City and one in 2008,” Farah said. Asked whether he had applied for TUEs to help with his asthma, Farah replied: “I’m not on TUE for asthma, I’m just on the normal, regular asthma [inhaler]. I just take it before exercise.”
That tallies with the records released by the Fancy Bears group. The 2008 TUE relates to an injection of the anti-inflammatory triamcinolone days before he raced in Newcastle.
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“As Mo has previously stated, he has got nothing to hide and doesn’t have a problem with this or any of his ADAMS [Wada’s anti-doping administration and management system] information being released – as evidenced by the fact that he voluntarily shared his blood data with the Sunday Times last year,” a spokeswoman said.
“Mo’s medical care is overseen at all times by British Athletics and over the course of his long career he has only ever had two TUEs. The first was back in 2008 for a one-off anti-inflammatory treatment to an injury. The second was in 2014 when Mo collapsed and was airlifted to hospital for emergency care, which consisted of painkillers and being placed on a drip.”
Nadal’s TUEs are likely to prompt further questions after it emerged that he received intramuscular injections of Tetracosactide, which stimulates the production of corticosteroids and has been named in several doping cases involving cyclists. The Spaniard was injured at the time the certificate was retrospectively applied for in August 2012. Nadal, who said this year that he would sue the former French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot over doping allegations, said in March: “I am a completely clean guy. I work so much during all my career, and when I get an injury, I get an injury. I never take nothing to be back quicker.”
The steady flow of leaks by the Fancy Bears group appears to be an attempt somehow to equate the use of TUEs by western athletes with the state‑sponsored doping documented in Russia over the past 18 months by two independent reports commissioned by Wada.
However, the Fancy Bears revelations have stimulated a new round of debate over the grey areas in the use of TUEs to allow athletes with medical conditions to take otherwise banned substances. In particular, three TUEs obtained by Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins between 2011 and 2013 have come under scrutiny.