Confusion over status of Tramadol in 2016; WADA contradicts MPCC and says it isn’t banned

by Shane Stokes


A statement released by the MPCC anti-doping movement on Wednesday has led to some confusion, with that release appearing to say that the painkiller tramadol would be banned next season.

MPCC member teams voluntarily accept regulations that are tougher than WADA’s own rules. In November 2013 it said that its members had undertook not to use tramadol in competition.

In its update, the group appeared to say that WADA had followed suit.

“Tramadol will be added to the list of substances prohibited in competition from January1, 2016. This was a long standing request by MPCC to WADA.”

Belgian and Dutch websites quoted team doctors as expressing satisfaction with the development.

“At the request of the MPCC WADA has done two to three years of investigation into the use of Tramadol and its link with the large number of crashes,” Sporza quotes Lotto-Soudal doctor Servaas Bingé as saying.

“Based on that examination, it indicates that Tramadol is still used occasionally. We can not deny that a medication with a sedative side effect increases the risk of falls. WADA puts the product from next year on the doping list and hopes that the number of crashes decreases.”

However, contacted by CyclingTips, a WADA spokesman said this was not the case.

“Tramadol is on the monitoring programme, on the watch list,” he said. “It was there for 2015, and it is remaining there in 2016. So it won’t be on the prohibited list.”

Asked to explain what that meant, he said that substances can be put on the watch list when a currently unbanned substance or method has had questions raised about it. “If they [experts] want to look at something in more detail, it can be added to the monitored list,” he said.

It means that statistics can be drawn up in relation to the prevalence of the substance showing up in tests. He added that tramadol could move to the banned list down the line if WADA and anti-doping experts agree that there is such a need.

Riders such as Taylor Phinney have called for a widespread ban on the use of tramadol, saying that it is dangerous and also contrary to the spirit of sport.

In 2014 former pro Michael Barry said in his autobiography that it was used by riders when he was part of Team Sky. He said that he frequently saw them being administered it prior to his retirement in 2012.

The team responded by saying that its use had not been permitted for the past two seasons.

MPCC confirms various developments

The MPCC comprises a majority of WorldTour and Pro Continental squads, and thus has a big influence on how they behave.

In Wednesday’s release, the MPCC also gave an update on its position in relation to corticosteroids plus the cortisol tests carried out.

It said that seven endocrinologists from a range of countries had unanimously validated that corticosteroids enhance performance and that an abnormally low cortisol level – a natural hormone that can be supressed by corticosteroid use – endangers rider’s health during periods of high stress.

It said that member teams had reaffirmed that they wanted cortisol tests to be carried out, and even advocated an increase in their frequency from the 615 tests done this year.

In the case that a MPCC team rider is blocked from starting a Grand Tour due to abnormal cortisol levels, or indeed suffers another force majeure, it said that the UCI’s Professional Cycling Council had agreed that substitute riders can be used.

It also hailed the UCI’s decision to adopt the MPCC’s policy of self-suspension for teams in the event of multiple positive tests.

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