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Explained: Simone Biles' doping controversy and therapeutic use exemption

Simone Biles of Team United States trains on vault during Women's Podium Training ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on July 22, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Simone Biles of Team United States trains on vault during Women's Podium Training ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on July 22, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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In 2016, Russian hackers "Fancy Bears" leaked sensitive files from WADA's database pertaining to details of Simone Biles' medical history. The quadruple Olympic gold medallist from the Rio Olympics was devastated and WADA condemned the attack.

The hackers gained access to WADA's Therapeutic Use Exemption list and also targeted Serena and Venus Williams. According to the attackers, Biles was using an "illicit psycho-stimulant" to enhance her performance.

Biles was ingesting Ritalin - a drug used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, the gymnast replied that she always played by the rules. WADA allows athletes to take certain drugs that are on the prohibited list as long as they apply for Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE).

What is Therapeutic Use Exemption given to Simone Biles?

Mykayla Skinner and Simone Biles of Team United States pose for a photo during Women's Podium Training ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on July 22, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Mykayla Skinner and Simone Biles of Team United States pose for a photo during Women's Podium Training ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on July 22, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

WADA issues TUE to athletes who have a medical condition that requires them to take medication involving drugs that are on the prohibited list. It allows the athletes to compete at national and international competitions without being handed a sanction.

An athlete needs to fulfill certain criteria to get a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). They are as follows:

  1. There should be clinical evidence to support the athlete's claim of requiring the prohibited substance for medication.
  2. The therapeutic use of prohibited substance should not produce an additional enhancement of performance.
  3. There is no permitted alternative route other than taking the prohibited substance.

WADA has strict rules before issuing an athlete with Therapeutic Use Exemption. As Simone Biles has a TUE to ingest Ritalin, she can't be charged with doping allegations.

Edited by Rohit Mishra
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