The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Thursday a study it conducted showed there is no meaningful association between an athlete having a therapeutic use exemption and winning an Olympic medal.
Therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) are special permission granted by anti-doping organisations that allow an athlete to use a prohibited substance as long as there is a legitimate medical need.
The study examined the five summer and winter Olympic Games between 2010 and 2018 and looked for an association to determine if athletes with TUEs won more medals than those without.
During the Olympics analysed – Vancouver 2010, London 2012, Sochi 2014, Rio de Janeiro 2016 and Pyeongchang 2018 – WADA said athletes competed with a TUE in 0.9% of athlete competitions and won 21 medals.
The risk ratio for winning a medal with a TUE, according to WADA, was 1.13.
WADA Medical Director Alan Vernec, who conducted the study along with the anti-doping body’s TUE Manager David Healy, said the data suggests “no meaningful association” between competing with a TUE and the likelihood of winning a medal.
Vernec called the TUE program a necessary part of sport that allows athletes with legitimate medical conditions to compete on a level playing field and said it has overwhelming acceptance from athletes, physicians and anti-doping stakeholders.
“The percentage of athletes with TUEs competing in elite sport and the association with winning medals has been a matter of speculation in the absence of validated competitor data,” Vernec said in a news release.
“The Olympic Games provides a unique opportunity to analyze sport at the highest level with a clearly defined group of competing athletes.
“The data showed that the number of athletes competing with valid TUEs (in individual competitions) at the selected Games was less than 1%.
“Furthermore, the analysis suggests that there is no meaningful association between competing with a TUE and the likelihood of winning a medal.”