I was embarrassed and frustrated when I saw my name in the latest list of Olympians leaked by Fancy Bears. To me they are merely pathetic and faceless hackers attempting to drag athletes through the mud. My frustration does not stem from a medical record being made public and my privacy being violated, though. I am more annoyed about the reaction. The feeling of going on Twitter or scrolling through certain media to see headlines like “Gold medal winner takes banned substance” was not pleasant.
This comes with the naturally raised profile of winning an Olympic gold medal, but therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) are completely legitimate. I have nothing to hide. I was given permission to use an inhaler for asthma in 2008 until 2010, and, in my case, it was essential to have one to ensure I could perform and stay healthy.
TUEs are not about cheating but a perception has been created by certain media outlets in the past few days to make it look that way. Being named in this fourth leak with seven other British athletes puts me in a category that, obviously, I would never ever want to be in. And my worry now is that the first thoughts of people when they hear our names are negative ones.
I am quite concerned that myself and Team GB are going to be tarnished by this negativity despite the fact TUEs are completely legal. If people want to try and draw any sort of link from this instance eight years ago to me winning gold at Rio 2016, then good luck to them.
The majority of my annoyance is because of the negative language that is now being used towards TUEs. While I have had so much support since the news broke – I am very thankful for that – some of the wording around TUEs has been simply incorrect. Headlines suggesting I used a banned substance were false and hurtful.
It’s also a shame that whoever is behind Fancy Bears has decided to bring athletes into this mix by leaking their confidential data. At this stage, there needs to be action taken at a higher level because we are being caught in the crossfire with attempts to publicly shame us when, ultimately, we have not done anything wrong.
Getting a TUE is not a simple matter. It has been eight years since I applied for mine but I do remember how rigorous the application system is. There is a lot to be done to obtain an exemption and they are not given out easily.
From a very young age, in hockey’s governing body at least, we are taught about what clean sport is. We are told about the process of drug testing from the very beginning and made to understand what substances are banned. I can only speak on behalf of hockey and my own experience but we, as a sport, are well informed from the very beginning when it comes to drugs.
It’s paramount that sport and everybody playing it, no matter what level, is clean. Hockey is a clean sport. If you are looking for instances of doping in hockey, you would struggle to come across it. We are tested regularly, especially in an Olympic year, where it can range from weekly to monthly. In the international setup there really is no room for a drugs cheat and we are very clear about that – whether it is now, in the past or the future.
Now I am concerned that the next generation of athletes could turn away from using TUEs because they have been tarnished by these stories. It’s worrying that in future Olympic cycles there could well be a hockey player like me, chasing her Olympic dream and pushing her body to its limit in search of success. What happens if she becomes out of breath and needs an inhaler? Not to get an unfair sporting advantage, but to breathe and make sure she does not die. Yet she may still think twice about using one, or at least feel guilty about doing so. That is wrong and we need to make sure people understand how important these exemptions are.