Joe Rogan's theory on Simone Biles, ADHD and Ritalin explained

Joshua Rogers July 30, 2021
Joe Rogan's theory on Simone Biles, ADHD and Ritalin explained
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

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US gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of two Olympic gymnastics events this week, citing mental health issues. Podcast host Joe Rogan recently spoke about the criticisms levelled at the four-time Olympic gold medallist, suggesting Biles’ ADHD and potential inability to take the drug Ritalin in Japan could explain her struggles.

Simone Biles withdraws from Olympics all-around gymnastic final

On Tuesday, Simone Biles withdrew from the team competition at the Tokyo Olympics, citing mental health issues.

The gymnast then announced she would not be partaking in the all-around Olympic gymnastic final on Thursday.

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The four-time Olympic gold medallist said: “I have to focus on my mental health.”

The USA Gymnastics organization released a statement early Wednesday, saying: “After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”

Since then, some, including podcast host Joe Rogan, have pointed to the drug Ritalin as a potential explanation for Biles’ struggles.

Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Does Simone Biles have ADHD?

Joe Rogan mentioned Ritalin because Simone Biles is known to have ADHD.

After a leak in 2016, Biles publicly addressed her ADHD and her approved use of methylphenidate.

Methylphenidate, or its brand name Ritalin, is a stimulant drug used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Biles posed the following tweet confirming she had ADHD.

The leak was condemned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

However, it did reveal that Biles was taking Ritalin to treat ADHD.

WADA allows athletes to take certain drugs (including Ritalin) that are on the prohibited list as long as they apply for Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE).

Biles, therefore, has always played by the rules and never fallen foul of anti-doping rules.

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Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Joe Rogan, and others, offer theory for Simone Biles’ struggles in Tokyo

On a recent episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, podcast host Joe Rogan came to the defence of Simone Biles.

“So many people are sh**ing on her online and calling her a coward,” Rogan said.

“It’s disgusting. You have no idea what’s going on in her head. She’s supposed to play when she’s suicidal? She’s supposed to play when she’s freaking out?”

He then mentioned Biles’ ADHD, suggesting that her inability to take her normal prescription medication in Japan could be impacting her performance.

“Is she supposed to do gymnastics when she’s literally losing her mind?” he added. “When people get off prescription drugs… I don’t know what it’s like to get off Ritalin. But I would imagine it’s not fun.”

The medical literature seems to support Rogan’s hypothesis.

According to Heathline: ‘Ritalin may make it easier for you to concentrate, be less fidgety, and gain control of your actions. You may also find it easier to listen and focus at your job or in school.

‘Taking Ritalin in high doses or for a long time can be habit-forming. If you stop taking it abruptly, you may experience withdrawal.

‘Symptoms of withdrawal include sleep problems, fatigue, and depression. It’s better to taper off slowly and under a doctor’s care.’

Others have made a similar point to Rogan, including Twitter user Chris “Boar” Bell.

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Is Ritalin illegal in Japan?

So, why might Simone Biles be unable to take her normal ADHD medication at the Tokyo Olympics?

Well, Ritalin is prohibited in Japan.

According to the embassy of Japan in Denmark’s website:

‘It is illegal to bring any medicine under this category. If you do, you will be arrested.

  • ‘E.g. Dexamphetamine (treats ADHD, Narcolepsy etc…)
  • Alternatives: Ritalin, Concerta or Vyvanse. Ritalin and Concerta contain Methylphenidate which means they are classified as Psychotropic medicines.’

According to non-profit organization The Associated Kyoto Program, Inc. (AKP): ‘While Ritalin is available in Japan to treat sleep disorders, it is not prescribed to ADHD patients.’

Furthermore, Adderall, another standard medication used to treat ADHD symptoms, is also on the prohibited list.

This would certainly corroborate the theory that Biles has been unable to take her normal ADHD medication in Japan (although it’s important to state that we can’t say for certain whether Biles has been able to take her normal medication or not).

However, if she hasn’t, as countless medical journals state, this could well have led to adverse effects and severe withdrawal symptoms, potentially affecting Biles’ ability to perform.

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.