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World Anti-Doping Agency set to ban painkiller tramadol

UCI moved quickly to ban 'in competition' use in 2019, a ban which saw Nairo Quintana disqualified from this year's Tour de France a month after securing a sixth-place finish...

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is expected to add the powerful painkiller tramadol to its World Anti-Doping Code prohibited list, the Telegraph newspaper reports.

The painkiller has long since been a talking point within the world of professional cycling, with the UCI ultimately banning use of it 'in competition' back in March 2019 amongst concerns about dangerous side effects causing crashes.

Then, last month, Nairo Quintana was stripped of his sixth-place finish at the Tour de France after tramadol and its two main metabolites were found in two of the Colombian's dried blood samples taken during the race.

Nairo Quintana 2022 TDF (Zac Williams/

 [Zac Williams/]

Quintana disputes the UCI's findings and has appealed the disqualification with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but as tramadol use is only an offence under the UCI Medical Rules (implemented to protect riders' health), he was not banned from competition.

The Telegraph report suggests little practical change for professional cycling should WADA add tramadol to the prohibited list, a decision expected to be approved at an executive committee meeting on Friday, with the anti-doping agency bringing its rules on the painkiller in line with what the UCI decided previously.

London 2012 anti-doping lab (picture credit LOCOG)

The UCI ban only stands 'in competition', and a WADA ban would not prevent tramadol being taken legally out of competition, although it would prevent athletes using it to play through pain or injury, making it unlikely that a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) — official medical document giving an athlete permission to take a medication, that is ordinarily prohibited, for the treatment of a legitimate condition — would be granted either.

At the time of Quintana's disqualification the UCI said 120 dried blood samples had been collected at this year's Tour de France as part of the tramadol programme.

Ahead of its ban in 2019, concerns had been raised that the powerful painkiller could heighten the risk of crashes due to its side effects of nausea, drowsiness and loss of concentration, as well as possible addiction.

Earlier in the summer former Liverpool and England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland revealed he became so addicted to the opiod that he almost took his own life, while in the same year the UCI banned tramadol, ex-Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams said his Sporting Chance clinic had helped 400 rugby league players addicted to prescription painkillers. Adams said "tramadol is the new drug of choice" in the sport.

Dan joined in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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stevio1967 | 1 year ago

My s/o had tramadol after her gall bladder op. She was completely trollied for days; more like a 90 year old and definitely no bikes ridden 

HoarseMann | 1 year ago

I'd say this is the right call. Tramadol is quite a strong analgesic. If you are in that much pain, what you need is a rest, not a race.

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