Am I a drug cheat? It’s something that I have pondered these last couple of months, ever since the case of cyclist Chris Froome made national headlines in December.
The multiple Tour de France winner is being investigated for an adverse finding for salbutamol, an asthma medication. He was found to have excessive levels in his system during the Vuelta a Espana, which he went on to win last September.
This is a medication I use on a regular basis. I have been dealing with asthmatic symptoms for around seven years now. In the last year I have been formally diagnosed as asthmatic and now take my salbutamol inhaler much more regularly.
It has made me wonder whether the amount I take is giving me an unfair advantage, even at the very average grass roots level I participate at. So, I am nowhere near Froome’s lofty level and not under the rightful level of scrutiny elite sport demands for a level playing field.
Nonetheless, my moral compass meant I felt duty bound to investigate what is ok in terms of salbutamol. Now, I must point out, I don’t consider myself squeaky clean in life. To be honest, at times, I’ve bent the rules.
My speeding record, for example, is not one to be proud of. But when it comes to running, I am a total and utter goody two shoes. When I have seen fellow runners cutting inside a single traffic cone, taking perhaps two metres off the total distance in a half marathon, well, I frown at that.
Running is the purest of sports and even if the odd elite runner gets tempted to take a medically-enhanced shortcut, us at grassroots are the heartbeat of the sport and should never consider even the most minor of transgressions. See, told you I was a stickler over cheating in running.
So, it prompted me to do some Googling around this case. Mostly it revealed what grey areas elite sport operates in, yet any athletes transgressions are judged in the black and white world the newspapers operate in.
Specifically, I found that under Wada’s (the global authority) rules, athletes are allowed to take up to 16 puffs of salbutamol in a 24-hour period, or eight in a 12-hour span.
This comforted me. I am very confident I have never exceeded those doses, though I cannot be 100% certain. But it’s a range I am absolutely certain I will operate with in future. Not that the anti-doping people will ever come knocking on my door. Running makes me feel very positive, but I don’t want to ever think I could possibly be tested positive.