Prevalence of therapeutic use exemptions at the Olympic Games and association with medals: an analysis of data from 2010 to 2018

Prevalence of therapeutic use exemptions at the Olympic Games and association with medals : an analysis of data from 2010 to 2018 / Alan Vernec, David Healy. - (British Journal of Sports Medicine (2020) 102028 (6 May); p. 1-6).
- PMID: 32376674.
- DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2020-102028


Objectives: The percentage of athletes with Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) competing in elite sport and the association with winning medals has been a matter of speculation in the absence of validated competitor numbers. We used International Olympic Committee (IOC) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) data to identify athletes competing with TUEs at five Olympic Games (Games) and a possible association between having a TUE and winning an Olympic medal.

Methods: We used the IOC's competition results and WADA's TUE database to identify the number of TUEs for athlete competitions (ACs, defined as one athlete competing in one event) and any associations with medals among athletes competing in individual competitions. We calculated risk ratios (RR) for the probability of winning a medal among athletes with a TUE compared with that of athletes without a TUE. We also reported adjusted RR (RRadj) controlling for country resources, which is a potential confounder.

Results: During the Games from 2010 to 2018, there were 20 139 ACs and 2062 medals awarded. Athletes competed with a TUE in 0.9% (181/20 139) of ACs. There were 21/2062 medals won by athletes with a TUE. The RR for winning a medal with a TUE was 1.13 (95% CI: 0.73 to 1.65; p=0.54), and the RRadj was 1.07 (95% CI: 0.69 to 1.56; p=0.73).

Conclusion: The number of athletes competing with valid TUEs at Games is <1%. Our results suggested that there is no meaningful association between being granted a TUE and the likelihood of winning a medal.

Original document


Research / Study
6 May 2020
Healy, David
Vernec, Alan
Other organisations
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)
Medical terms
Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE)
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Scientific article
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Pdf file
Date generated
18 May 2020
Date of last modification
28 May 2020
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