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Leaked IOC emails show Rio 2016 bronze medallist tested positive for banned substance

Henri Schoeman of South Africa tested positive for prednisolone but was not suspended

On Thursday morning Sputnik International released leaked internal emails from the International Olympic Committee revealing that Rio 2016 bronze medallist and ITU Grand Final winner Henri Schoeman of South Africa tested positive for a “performance improving” banned drug and failed to provide a TUE from his doctor.

Schoeman’s story was one of the most talked about after the men’s event in Rio, as he wasn’t a medal favourite and had come down with an illness just days before the event, unsure of if he would be able to compete. While many had pegged his countryman Richard Murray as a podium contender, Schoeman rose to the occasion on the day and passed Murray (who took fourth) for the third podium spot behind Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee:

The leaked documents reveal that Schoeman tested positive for “prednisolone, a banned performance-improving glucocorticoid.”

According to Sputnik’s report, “Amid¬†the doping witch hunt that left Russia banned from¬†the Olympic Games, no disciplinary action was taken against¬†Shoeman and no investigation into¬†doping rules violations was launched.”

But his case is not so simple.

The emails were obtained by the Fancy Bears hacking group on August 22, 2016 — one day after the men’s triathlon event at the Rio Olympic Games. The first email is from staffer Pascal Waeber, addressed to Dr. Richard Budgett, the Medical and Scientific Director of the IOC. It addresses an Adverse Analytical Finding without a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE

Here is a copy of the first leaked email:

Credit: Sputnik

In the email, Budgett asks Waeber to find Schoeman’s Doping Control Form (DCF). Here it is:


Credit: Sputnik
Credit: Sputnik

On the document, dated August 18, 2016, it shows that Schoeman did declare prednisone in the amount of 10 mg, administered on July 17, 2016. He did not provide a TUE.

Prednisone is a problematic substance because of the method by which it is administered, and Schoeman did not indicate how he took the substance. It is banned by WADA “when orally, rectally or injected into¬†the bloodstream or a muscle,” on¬†the basis it can “produce a feeling of¬†euphoria, potentially giving athletes an unfair advantage.” Therefore, it can only be applied topically, for example for skin rashes, and must be accompanied by a TUE.

In the following subsequent email, Budgett remains hopeful that a TUE will be produced and asks, “if there is a medical record justifying the treatment would you potentially accept a retroactive TUE?”

Credit: Sputnik

These are the only correspondences that were released in the original news story. Schoeman has not been linked to any doping violations before or since the 2016 Olympics. It is still unclear whether he administered the drug topically, as would be allowed by WADA when accompanied by a TUE, or by one of the banned methods.

WADA says that the drug is a banned on the grounds that it can “produce a feeling of¬†euphoria, potentially giving athletes an unfair advantage.”