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Simone Biles' ADHD medication is banned in Japan, but a Tokyo 2020 exemption allowed them for athletes

Insider
Insider
 2021-07-30
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Simone Biles.
  • Simone Biles withdrew from both Olympic all-around finals over mental-health concerns.
  • The superstar gymnast later said she was experiencing "the twisties," which cause disorientation.
  • She takes ADHD medication that is not permitted in Japan, but an exemption likely allowed her to bring it.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories .

Simone Biles has been struggling with her mental health in Tokyo, which prompted the superstar gymnast to pull out of both Olympic all-around finals .

The withdrawal of the biggest star at this summer's games was a shocking development that birthed a worldwide discussion about mental health awareness and management. But it also gave rise to some questions, including what sparked Biles' case of "the twisties."

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Biles with her teammates.

Some have suggested that Biles' ADHD could be to blame - and it's a reasonable assumption given Japan's ban of most medicines commonly used to treat the disorder in the US. But Biles and other Olympic athletes may have benefitted from an exception to the rule .

"A special arrangement is in place specifically for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to allow athletes taking these medicines for therapeutic use, and with an approved Therapeutic Use Exemption, to import personal supplies for the treatment of their medical condition while they are in Japan," a document provided via Team USA says.

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Biles performs in Tokyo.

Athletes were permitted to "apply for permission" to bring otherwise banned drugs with them to Tokyo. This applies mostly to dextroamphetamine - or Adderall - and other stimulant drugs, but it doesn't appear this applies to Biles' regimen.

An illegal release of some high-profile athletes' medical data in 2016 showed Biles had tested positive for methylphenidate - the official name for Ritalin, another common medication for the treatment of ADHD. The situation led the then-19-year-old star to publicly address her ADHD diagnosis and say she's taken the medication since she was a child to manage her symptoms.

"Having ADHD, and taking medicine for it is nothing to be ashamed of," Biles tweeted at the time. "Nothing that I'm afraid to let people know."

Ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, Biles filed for a "therapeutic use exemption" through the World Anti-Doping Agency, which enabled her to continue taking the drug throughout her breakout competition.

While the laws in Japan are extremely stringent when it comes to stimulants, they're slightly more lax about psychotropics, the class of drugs under which Ritalin is categorized. Athletes and nonathletes alike can apply for a Yakkan Shoumei - an "import certificate" allowing for the import of some otherwise prohibited drugs - that permits them to bring up to 2.16g of their methylphenidate into the country.

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Biles.

If she filled out and submitted a Yakkan Shoumei, Biles was covered to continue taking Ritalin in Tokyo without fear of arrest. So while it's impossible to determine what has caused Biles' case of "the twisties," a lack of medication is almost certainly not to blame.

Biles is still eligible for the remaining four women's artistic gymnastics events in Tokyo, though it remains unclear whether she'll participate . Her next chance to get back into the gym is on Sunday for the vault final. The balance beam, floor, and uneven bars finals - all of which Biles has qualified for - will take place later in the week.

A previous version of this article suggested that Biles may not have been able to bring her ADHD medication to Japan. It has been updated to reflect information provided via Team USA and additional sources.

Read the original article on Insider

Comments / 575

Audrey Quaye
07-31

We all seem to forget that Simon Biles is also one of the young Gymnasts who were sexually abused by Dr. Larry Nassar. She said that going to the same facility where the abuse took place to train for the Olympics was extremely difficult for her. She lost her concentration and did not execute a maneuver properly. She could have had a career ending injury, if she had continued to perform without regaining her concentration. Her decision to withdraw must have been an extremely difficult one for her. It's easy for armchair critics who know nothing about gymnastics to make snide remarks. We wish Simon Biles the very best!

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Amy Gee
07-30

so, she went from a foot, to depression, now to blaming a lack of adhd medication that she and her doctors would have known in advance of her even going was not allowed into the country. what's the next excuse?

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David E. Walker
07-31

According to majority of the white people under this comment section Mental Health either doesn't exist or isn't important. You can win 100 gold medals in the Olympics but if you back out of 1 event they will call you a loser Let them tell it the only time mental health exist is when a white kid shoots up a school or a concert.

Reply(20)
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