The UCI banned in-competition use of the painkiller Tramadol from March 1. The drug can cause users to feel drowsy or lose concentration and had been blamed for crashes in the peloton. The sport’s governing body has since carried out 143 tests on 117 riders at 11 World Tour events and all tests came back negative.
A 2017 survey by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) revealed widespread use of the drug within cycling.
The agency found that 4.4 per cent of in-competition tests on cyclists that year showed the use of Tramadol, while across 35 Olympic sports, cyclists accounted for 68 per cent of urine samples that were found to contain the drug.
Announcing the ban in January, the UCI said: “Dried blood droplets will be collected for presence of tramadol, using a high-precision analysis technique. Positive or negative results will depend on the presence or absence of the substance in the blood (there is no threshold). The analysis will be carried out in a reference laboratory, with the results sent to the UCI Medical Director within a maximum of 4-5 days.”
First-time offenders will be disqualified from the event the sample was collected at and will receive a fine of 1,000 Swiss Francs, rising to 5,000 Swiss Francs for members of UCI-registered teams.
The first tests were carried out at Paris-Nice with samples mainly taken at the finish lines of races. The analyses were conducted independently at Geneva University Hospitals’ Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology Division.
The programme monitoring the misuse of tramadol will continue throughout the season, including at the UCI World Championships.
Speaking about this first report, UCI President David Lappartient said: "The in-competition Tramadol testing programme has entered its transition phase. I would like to thank the staff working on the ground for leading this programme to a successful conclusion, as well as our scientific partners for their support. I would also like to thank the riders and teams who have shown a real desire to make this risk-reduction programme in the peloton a success."
Lappartient has since said that he also plans to ban corticosteroids from next year.