WADA to ban tramadol, report suggests

The World Anti-Doping Agency is said to be on the brink of adding the powerful painkiller to the list of banned substances.

by Jonny Long

The painkiller tramadol is set to be one of the latest additions to WADA’s list of banned substances.

The executive committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency will add the drug to the prohibited list of its Doping Code on Friday, according to the Telegraph newspaper.

Tramadol has already been banned in-competition in cycling by the UCI since March 2019 “in order to protect the riders’ health and safety in light of the side-effects” the governing body say. Those side-effects include nausea, drowsiness and a loss of concentration, the latter particularly worrying when racing within a peloton.

The news follows Nairo Quintana’s two positive tests for tramadol at this summer’s Tour de France, with dried blood samples coming back positive for the painkiller and resulting in his sixth overall place being struck from the official results. It didn’t count as an Anti-Doping Rule Violation, however, only an infringement of the ‘UCI Medical Rules’, meaning this first offence wouldn’t see the Colombian receive a suspension from racing. It’s important to note that Quintana denies taking tramadol and is currently appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport over the ruling.

Interestingly, it’s suggested that the WADA ban on tramadol will also only be a prohibition of in-competition use, meaning a negligible effect for the sport of cycling but a potentially transformative ruling for other athletes, such as those who play on through pain with the help of the drug in rugby and football (soccer).

Tramadol has been on WADA’s monitoring programme for 10 years and Agency refused to comment on whether it would be imminently moving the drug to the prohibited list.

“The list is reviewed annually in consultation with scientific, medical and anti-doping experts to ensure it reflects current medical and scientific evidence and doping practices,” WADA said in a statement.

“Tramadol does feature on the Monitoring Program for 2022. The Monitoring Program includes substances that are not on the Prohibited List, but that WADA wishes to monitor in order to detect patterns of misuse in sport.”

What the move from WADA does indicate is an increasing awareness on the dangers of painkiller abuse within sport and an appetite to take action, with athletes sometimes becoming addicted to these drugs while also causing potential damage to their health later on in life.

Earlier this year, retired pro Taylor Phinney spoke about the “fucked up” abuse of opiate painkillers in the peloton when he was racing, while up and coming Belgian youngster Cian Uijtdebroeks said that he did not intend to jeopardise his long-term health for better results in his career.

“Everyone does what they want with that, but I don’t intend to undermine my long-term health for short-term performance,” Uijtdebroeks said. “If I am beaten by a rider who has taken three grams of paracetamol in the final, I will be frustrated. While it’s perfectly legal, I’m not going to do it. Even if I lose a race because of this and if someone advises me to try it anyway, I will stick to my own plan.”

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