• British cyclist Simon Yates has failed in-competition drugs test last month
  • The 23-year-old tested positive for banned substance Terbutaline  
  • Yates uses the drug to treat asthma but did not have exemption granted
  • In order to avoid lengthy ban, rider must explain ‘administrative error’ 

Matt Lawton for the Daily Mail

Simon Yates and medical officials at his cycling team will have to explain why he was using a banned drug without a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) if he is to avoid a lengthy ban.

In favour of the 2013 points race world champion is that his use of the asthma drug, Terbutaline, was declared by the doctor of his team, Orica-GreenEDGE, in the doping control form that was submitted when he was tested after the sixth stage of Paris-Nice on March 12.

But to avoid a sanction of anything up to a four-year ban — previous cases suggest it could be closer to six months — Yates has to explain why he tested positive for a banned drug he was not authorised to use.

Cyclist Simon Yates has failed an in-competition drugs test, blaming an 'administrative error' for the result

Cyclist Simon Yates has failed an in-competition drugs test, blaming an ‘administrative error’ for the result

After Sportsmail revealed news of the 23-year-old’s positive test on Thursday night, officials at Orica quickly pointed the finger of blame at their own doctor for committing a serious ‘administrative error’.

‘The team takes full responsibility for this mistake,’ said Orica in a statement. But the team confirmed on Friday that while Yates has a history of asthma problems, he has never had a TUE for Terbutaline.

That could yet be a problem for the Bury-born rider as athletes must take responsibility for anything that might appear in a test sample — particularly when there are no guarantees that an application for an exemption will be successful. 


The Bury-born rider, 23, won gold in the points race at the 2013 World Championships. That year he also saw off Bradley Wiggins to win stage six of the Tour of Britain. His twin brother Adam is also a cyclist. 

Another question is why the team did not apply retrospectively, as they are permitted to do under the rules of cycling’s world governing body, the UCI.

Yates could yet be issued with a retroactive TUE to clear him of any sanction if he can provide medical evidence of why he needed to use that particular inhaler.

On Friday the UCI confirmed that Yates is not suspended from racing during the disciplinary process because the substance that showed up is on the specified list of drugs on the World Anti-Doping Agency list.

The Orica-GreenEdge rider tested positive for Terbutaline, a drug used to treat the 23-year-old's asthma

The Orica-GreenEdge rider tested positive for Terbutaline, a drug used to treat the 23-year-old’s asthma

A UCI statement read: ‘As per anti-doping rules, such substance does not entail the imposition of a provisional suspension. The rider has the right to request and attend the analysis of the B sample.’

The seemingly widespread use of asthma drugs in sport, particularly endurance sports, remains a contentious issue, with inhalers long referred to as ‘the coach’s friend’ in anti-doping circles.

The stigma often associated with asthma medication and the use of TUEs prompted officials at Orica to complain on Friday how news of Yates’ positive test had emerged.

Team owner Gerry Ryan said he feared that Yates, who is considered a future Grand Tour contender, would now be subjected to a ‘kangaroo court’.

‘I’m disappointed that Simon hasn’t had the opportunity to put his case forward,’ Ryan told Cycling News.

‘I am surprised that when we have to go through the process that someone has leaked it to the English press. That’s where it came from. I am disappointed it hasn’t gone through the correct procedure.

In order to avoid a lengthy suspension, Yates must explain why he didn't have Therapeutic Use Exemption 

In order to avoid a lengthy suspension, Yates must explain why he didn’t have Therapeutic Use Exemption 

‘There is a statement from the doctor, and a statement from Simon and it should go through the process.

‘Simon is to present his case today (as is the team doctor), not because it is out in the press but because of the process.’

Yates, a product of British Cycling who was selected at 18 for the Olympic Academy Programme, remains a member of the Olympic Podium Programme and a contender for a place in the road race at this summer’s Rio Olympics. The climbing ability he has displayed on the Tour de France enhances his chances of a spot for the hilly course in Rio. 

On Friday Rod Ellingworth, in charge of the British Olympic road race team, said Yates remains in contention. ‘I don’t know Simon greatly,’ said Team Sky’s head of performance operations. ‘I only know him through what I do with him with British Cycling, which is minimal compared to the contact with his team.

‘It’s a shock. You hope procedures are correct. My job is to put the best team on the line. I’ll use anybody who is eligible. I hope he’s OK and gets through this.’

Other cases involving Terbutaline include a rugby player who was cleared of an anti-doping violation in 2008 and Norwegian cyclist Vegard Robinson Bugge, who received a four-month ban last year. 


On April 22, the team was notified that Simon Yates has an adverse analytical finding from a test conducted at Paris-Nice, stage 6 on March 12, 2016.

The positive result is for the substance Terbutaline.

The substance was given to Simon Yates in the form an asthma inhaler and accordingly, this was noted by the team doctor on the Doping Control Form, signed at the time of the test.

The substance was given in an ongoing treatment of Simon Yates’ documented asthma problems. However, in this case the team doctor made an administrative error by failing to apply for the TUE required for the use of this treatment.

The use of Terbutaline without a current TUE is the reason it has been flagged as an adverse analytical finding. This is solely based on a human error that the doctor in question has taken full responsibility for.

There has been no wrong-doing on Simon Yates’ part. The team takes full responsibility for this mistake and wishes to underline their support for Simon during this process.

The team is concerned by the leak of this information and has no further comments until there has been a full evaluation made of the documentation, statements and evidence that the team and Simon Yates are now submitting to the UCI in order to clarify everything.


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