The Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) has moved a step forward in its endeavours to protect local athletes against involuntary taking of banned substances.
In what is considered a positive development, the BNOC has now trained at least one medical doctor to deal with the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for local athletes. The move is expected to ensure athletes with chronic diseases and those with need for medicines at different times do not fall victim to anti doping tests and sanctions and are not sidelined from active competition.
Speaking in an interview, BNOC Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tuelo Serufho said the move to train local doctors is part of Botswana’s plan to ensure deserving and honest athletes are not banned from sport for doping despite using medicines sanctioned by doctors. “It is a well known fact that some athletes have chronic illnesses and constantly need to use prescription drugs.
The international sports federations are aware of this and the plan is that athletes with such illnesses should not be marginalised from active competition. TUE is made to address this while also curbing dishonest athletes from using prohibited substances,” the BNOC CEO explained.
He said under the TUE, athletes with chronic illnesses or in need of certain medicines must apply for use of prescription drugs, something that ensures they can be exonerated should their samples return an adverse analytical finding during anti doping tests. On what measures will be taken to ensure that the TUE is not abused, Serufho said a panel of doctors have to agree to the exemption before it can be granted to the athlete, something which ensures fairness in the process. In the case of Botswana, the BNOC CEO said the panel to look at the TUE of local athletes will include a local doctor and some doctors from neighboring South Africa.
“Even the athletes using prescription drugs for chronic illnesses can be easily monitored under the system. For any athlete using prescription drugs, there is always a certain level or amount of such drugs to be found in his system at any given time. Should an athlete be found to have more than the acceptable amount in his/her sample analysis, that athlete will be liable to be taken to task for doping violations,” the BNOC CEO explained.
He however cautioned that it is still the responsibility of an individual athlete to ensure that where possible, only medicines without banned substances are used. “We encourage athletes not to buy over the counter medications for any illnesses, but rather go for prescription medicines. This will ensure that where they get caught in anti doping stings, they have detailed documents to prove their innocence,” Serufho said. To ensure that athletes do not involuntarily use banned substances, the BNOC CEO said athletes are always encouraged to ask their pharmacists whether the drugs prescribed to them are free of banned substances.
“This is the reason why a pocket sized book listing all the banned substances has been made for athletes. This is to ensure that they can always show it to their pharmacists to ascertain that the medicines they prescribe are free from banned substances and will also need documents from such Pharmacists confirming this,” Serufho said.
Meanwhile, the BNOC CEO has alluded that local sport is in need of an independent National Anti Doping Organisation (NADO). He said as such, the BNOC will continue engaging all stakeholders to help the country have its own NADO. He said while the government has been willing to help, the economic downturn that had engulfed the world and Botswana in particular had restricted the country from taking this big step. The BNOC CEO concluded by saying that when finances become available, a fully fledged NADO will be established in the country.