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MPs' investigation to examine use of controversial drug tramadol in pro cycling

Powerful painkiller isn't banned - but teams including Sky insist they no longer use it...

A House of Commons Select Committee that is investigating doping in sport and has quizzed people connected with British Cycling and Team Sky including Sir Dave Brailsford, is to examine the use of the powerful painkiller tramadol in professional cycling, the Guardian reports.

While tramadol does not appear on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list, its use within professional cycling is controversial, which is why the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport plans to focus on the issue.

Some believe that the drug may have been responsible for crashes in the peloton due to side-effects including dizziness feeling drowsy, and teams signed up to the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) - which Team Sky does not belong to - have agreed not to administer it to riders.

The select committee’s chair, Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins, told the Guardian: “There are a number of lines of inquiry that remain open and tramadol is one of them,” said Damian Collins, chairman of the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee.

“Given the amount of evidence we had last week we want to take stock and see if there are further questions.”

He added that had former Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman appeared before the select committee last week, he would have been quizzed about tramadol.

Retired pro cyclist Michael Barry, who left Team Sky in September 2012 and the following month received a six-month ban after providing evidence to the investigation into US Postal, another of his former teams, claimed in his 2014 autobiography that he had used Tramadol while with the British team.

Last month, he said that the team’s medical staff had offered younger members of the team the drug, which Barry maintains falls into a “grey” area with its use questionable on ethical grounds.

> Team Sky’s approach to drugs “not ethical” says former rider Michael Barry

In response to Barry’s comments from 2014, Team Sky insisted at the time that “None of our riders should ride while using tramadol – that’s the policy of this team,” and that it was not used in racing or training.

Another former Team Sky rider who served a doping ban and is now also retired, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, claimed that in 2012 when he was the Great Britain’s protected rider at the world championship road race in the Netherlands that he and other cyclists on the team were “freely offered” Tramadol - something team-mates and management denied.

The news that MPs will be investigating the use of tramadol in the sport comes after a bruising week for Team Sky.

Last week, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) chief executive Nicole Sapstead said that the amount of the banned corticosteroid triamcinolone  that Freeman had ordered was excessive for use by one rider.

Sir Bradley Wiggins was allowed to use it under a therapeutic use exemption, including ahead of his Tour de France victory in 2012,  although it has been claimed by riders who have been caught cheating that it does have have strong performance enhancing effects.

Sapstead also spoke about the lack of documentation for the Jiffy Bag that former British Cycling coach Simon Cope - who also testified last week - delivered to Freeman at the Criterium du Duphine in 2011.

Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford has claimed it contained a permitted decongestant, Fluimcil, but Collins and others are far from convinced.

> From zero tolerance to zero credibility - Team Sky and Brailsford under attack

The weekend saw further claims in the national press against Team Sky, including that a delivery of testosterone patches was made to Freeman in Manchester - he claims the arrival of that package was due to an administrative error - and that other medical staff on the team took steps including changing computer passwords to try and prevent Freemen securing TUEs for Wiggins.

> Team Sky doctors 'tried to thwart Wiggins TUE use'

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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