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Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins was “fully aware” that the corticosteroid he obtained a Therapeutic Use Exemption for in 2011, ’12, and ’13 had a reputation as a performance enhancer. But Wiggins asserts that the substance was “the best course of treatment” for his allergies.
In an extensive interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, Wiggins discussed his legal use of banned substance Triamcinolone acetonide, his history of nagging allergies, and the timeline for his use of the banned substance. Wiggins said he was “fully aware of this drug and the taboo surrounding it all … the misuse and the abuse of this drug in the past”
The interview is the most comprehensive media hit that Wiggins has done since his TUE information was made public two weeks ago by hacking team “Fancy Bears.” The hacks also revealed TUE information on a number of cyclists, including Fabian Cancellara, Chris Froome, and Jack Bobridge, among others.
Wiggins’s TUE leak has stirred controversy among current and retired pro cyclists. Multiple retired professional cyclists have said that Triamcinolone acetonide, also known by its trade names Kenacort and Kenalog, was commonly abused by cyclists as an illicit way to drop weight and battle inflammation. Retired Scottish rider David Millar told UK newspaper The Telegraph that the substance should be banned outright, and that it was one of the “most potent” drugs he used during his career.
Wiggins told The Guardian that he understands that his use of the drug appears suspicious, but that fans and the media shouldn’t assume that the substance he was taking was a performance enhancer. He said that the sport’s long history with drug abuse has likely influenced peoples’ perception of his TUE for the corticosteroid.
“I saw the hoo-hah a couple of years ago with Froome with the Tour of Romandie inhaler and the last-minute TUE, racing on it. I saw the hysteria that caused and I understand in the post-Armstrong all that came with that,” he said.
Wiggins insisted that the drug was a last-ditch method to treat his chronic allergy to pollen, which he’s suffered since he was a teenager. Wiggins said he first began struggling with hay fever at the age of 15, and the problem progressively worsened during his 20s. He tried to treat the allergies with allergy medication Clarityn, nasal sprays, and other methods.
He said the allergies first impacted his professional career in 2003, when he was forced to abandon the Giro d’Italia after missing the time cut.
“Uncontrollable sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, the urge to rub my eyes constantly, and in doing that the eyes becoming bloodshot … extreme,” Wiggins said. “My breathing became restricted, like breathing through a straw at times.”
Starting in 2004 Wiggins began working with doctors to try and cure the allergies. Starting in 2008 Wiggins began receiving TUE for Salbutamol, a well-known inhaler treatment for asthma and allergies. The treatment did not eliminate the allergies, Wiggins said.
Wiggins said he never discussed the allergies before because he was worried that the problems would come off as an excuse for his bad performances. The allergies hampered him at races throughout his career, he said, but he kept the problems to himself. He also didn’t write about the allergies in his book, “My Time.”
“It wasn’t something I was going to shout from the rooftops and use as an excuse and say, ‘My allergies have started off again.’ That’s convenient isn’t it Brad, your allergies started when you got dropped. I didn’t mention it in the book. I’d come off a season of … I’d won everything that year. When I was writing the book I wasn’t sat there thinking, ‘I’d better bring my allergies up.’ I was flying on cloud nine after dominating the sport all year.”
Wiggins does not believe the Triamcinolone acetonide gave him an advantage during his races. He said the substance hurt his performance at the 2011 Tour de France, where he eventually crashed out. As the race went on, Wiggins said he felt himself weakening, and believes the substance may have “tipped him over the edge.”
“I’d probably have been better without it, because I was already at 70 kilos at the Dauphiné having worked with Nigel Mitchell all year and got down to this weight, starving myself doing seven-hour rides without breakfast, and I was climbing well, but I was borderline, and in taking this I cured one problem but gave myself another,” Wiggins said.