British researchers have found dexamethasone, a corticosteroid primarily used to reduce inflammation, can be used to treat Covid-19. The drug reduces the risk of death by one-third in patients using ventilators and one-fifth in patients on oxygen. Dexamethasone is an affordable drug and it is widely available around the world.
This is the very drug which caused Lee Chong Wei’s suspension in his doping case.
In a clinical trial carried out by Oxford University, as many as 2000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and compared with 4000 others who did not receive the medication. For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%. For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%.
“The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about £5 per patient. So essentially it costs £35 to save a life. This is a drug that is globally available,” lead researcher Prof. Martin Landray told BBC.
In 2015, Lee Chong Wei was slapped with an 8-month backdated suspension from international competition by the Badminton World Federation (BWF). Lee had failed a doping test during the 2014 World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. His urine sample contained dexamethasone, a prohibited drug under the 2009 BWF Anti-Doping Act.
Lee claimed not to realize that the illicit substance was used when he underwent treatment for a thigh injury. Lee was handed the eight months suspension for ‘negligence’. The silver medal that he won during the world championships was also stripped away.
With the Corona pandemic still raging in many countries, badminton players must be careful if they need to get treated with dexamethasone if they do not wish to suffer the same fate as Lee Chong Wei.
According to various sources on the internet, there are provisions in the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) Code for drugs like dexamethasone for athletes who want to take it. The usage of this drug under Therapeutic Use Exemption causes no ban. Real Madrid captain and football World Cup winner Sergio Ramos was found positive of this drug, but he was exempted from a ban. It was proved that his team doctor did not report Romos’ usage; UEFA called it an administrative error and no action was taken further.