Callum Skinner – the gold and silver medallist in cycling at the Rio Olympics and one of the athletes whose medical data has been hacked by a group known as the Fancy Bears – has released medical information dating back to when he was five years old to prove he was the victim of a smear.
The Scot has had two therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) in his career, one in 2014 and one in January this year, both to treat asthma. His medical records show he suffered his first asthmatic attack when he was five, when he was admitted to Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow. He was hospitalised another three times as a youngster.
Writing today in The Scotsman, he says: “After the leak I resolved to release my NHS medical records,so I’ve spent the past week phoning doctors I’ve seen and the hospitals to which I have been admitted on four occasions having suffered asthma attacks,
“I was keen to make my records public for two reasons: to prove that my condition is real, but also to show that asthma need not stop somebody competing at the highest level.”
Having been reluctant to take part in sport as an asthmatic schoolboy, Skinner says that he has been able to manage his condition better as he has got older.
“I try to rely less, rather than more, on medication. I’ve done a lot of work with our nutritionist and I’m religious about taking omega pills and pre- and probiotics.
“Not so long ago my training would be compromised for up to three months of the year. Now it’s typically two to three weeks. This has been one of the keys to my more recent success; that, and learning how to react to health issues.”
Skinner’s disclosure – as well as publishing his details in The Scotsman he is sharing his NHS medical records on his own website (callumskinner.com) – follows questions about the possible abuse of the TUE system by unscrupulous athletes.
There are questions, in particular, about the prevalence of asthma among elite athletes, with another member of the British cycling team in Rio, Sir Bradley Wiggins, facing scrutiny for his use of a potent drug before some of his major races.
“I’m not claiming the TUE system is perfect,” writes Skinner. “One athlete using the system for performance enhancement rather than for genuine health reasons is one too many. But personally, I have no issue with all my TUEs, and drug test results, being made public.
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”
Skinner won gold in the team sprint at the Olympics, and silver in the individual sprint.