THE BALL – Kristen Faulkner Banned: The Whole Story of Glucose Sensors (Cycling)

By Fernando Emilio

The disqualification of the American Kristen Faulkner (Jayco-Alula) in the Strade Bianche, has raised a number of questions, mainly due to the lack of knowledge of what a glucose sensor is and the regulations in this case of the UCI.

We will clarify all the situations and dispel some doubts, because apart from being used in resistance ways like cycling and sports, the glucose sensor is also important for diabetics who can control the glucose in their body.

In the women’s Strade Bianche contested on Saturday 4, American Kristen Faulkner was placed third, behind Demi Vollering and Lotte Kopecky, both of the SD Worx team. In the middle of the following week, the UCI issued a statement, which analyzed the cyclist’s situation, for a possible violation of the use of a glucose sensor.

On the 13th and after hearing the athlete, the UCI decided to disqualify her and give third place to Denmark’s Cecília Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez), due to the fact that the American runner had violated the regulations prohibiting the use of the sensor in competition . . Article 1.3.006 states: “Devices that record physiological data, including any metabolic values ​​such as glucose and lactate, but not limited to, are not permitted in competition.”

The cyclist acknowledged the offense and stated: “My intention was not to break any rules or gain an unfair advantage. I am proud to have competed in Strade Bianche and I am extremely disappointed with the UCI’s decision. I hope that one day glucose monitoring devices will be allowed at games as they are valuable for athletes and especially women to look after their physical health, although that is a conversation for another time.”

With the sports indoor chapter, we come to the definition of what glucose sensors are. The main brands on the market are Supersapiens and Abbot Libre Sense, which sell a small sensor that is placed on the upper arm with a special application that is part of the package and that for 14 days continuously sends data about the amount of glucose in the body user.

The measurement is not about blood sugar, but the amount of glucose in the interstitial fluid. This interstitial fluid is a form of extracellular fluid that fills the space between cells. Blood sugar glucose measurement is more accurate because the fluctuations of glucose in the interstitial fluid lag behind the blood sugar level. However, the advantage of interstitial fluid measurements is that regular blood tests are not needed.

The glucose monitor is originally a medical product, which was developed to make it easier for diabetic patients to understand the amount of glucose in their body. In recent years, technology has also spread to endurance sports.

The application leader in glucose measurement in sports is Supersapiens. This company was founded a few years ago by Phil Southerland and has been on the market since 2020. Phil Southerland’s name is well known in cycling, as he was the founder of the Novo Nordisk team, which today belongs to the ProTeams category, in which all The his cyclists are type 1 diabetics and have already participated in the Volta ao Algarve.

The US-based company has developed an app to make transparent athlete data connected to the Abbot Libre Sense sensor. They also produce a kind of rubber covering, which makes the sensor less vulnerable. Jumbo-Visma and Ineos-Grenadiers, among others, are cycling teams that have been using the biosensor and the Supersapiens system for a few years now.

The utility of a glucose monitor such as this from Supersapiens lies in the fact that it allows the athlete to have an accurate view of energy supply. This energy supply does not only consist of glucose, but during the most intensive efforts it is one of the most important sources of energy. By using the monitor in training, an athlete can learn a lot about how fast and how much energy they expend during specific efforts. This information can also be used to optimize the nutrition plan for training or competition to ensure that an athlete does not run out of energy. For elite athletes it is an extremely useful product, but its use is prohibited by the UCI in cycling.

This situation can be considered questionable, since the UCI allows the measurement of heart rate, body temperature and sweat rate, which draw the line of metabolic values, leaving many doubts in the air about the ban of glucose sensors in competition .

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