UCI commits to banning tramadol and glucocorticoids

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The UCI has announced that it is putting in place firm measures to ban the use of tramadol and glucocorticoids in competition, something which has long been called for by the anti-doping body MPCC.

The governing body had previously said that it was hamstrung by the fact that the World Anti-Doping Agency didn’t have rules in place against the substances. Tramadol, a potent pain-killer, has been on WADA’s monitor list for several years but the agency has not moved on banning it.

Previous UCI President Brian Cookson had requested on several occasions that WADA block its use, as did the MPCC. The new president David Lappartient and the management committee have now taken the decision to go it alone, citing health reasons as the mechanism to bring in a ban.

“Concerning Tramadol, this is a strong analgesic, associated with significant undesirable side-effects such as dizziness, loss of alertness, drowsiness, or physical dependency and risks of addiction to opioids,” the governing body said in a press release.

“The UCI has therefore decided to commit to a move towards banning the use of Tramadol in competition for health reasons. This process is currently underway and in the short term will lead to the integration into the UCI Medical Rules of provisions to ban Tramadol.”

Professional rider Taylor Phinney previously spoke on the topic to Velonation, saying in 2012 that he believed that the substance and other similar products were a danger.

“You see so many late-race stupid crashes that I almost wouldn’t be surprised if some or most of those crashes are caused by people taking these hard-hitting painkillers at the end of races,” he said then. “There is widespread use of finish bottles, which are just bottles of crushed up caffeine pills and painkillers. That stuff can make you pretty loopy, and that is why I have never tried it. I don’t even want to try it as I feel it dangerous.

“Another issue is taking something for an improvement, getting into that mentality. You have to ask why are you taking a painkiller? You are doing that to mask effects that riding a bike is going to have on your body…essentially, you are taking a painkiller to enhance your performance.

“But the whole reason we get into sport in the first place is to test our bodies, to test our limits. If you are taking something that is going to boost your performance, that is not exactly being true to yourself, not exactly being true to your sport.”

As regards glucocorticoids, MPCC member teams already accepted an unofficial ban several years ago. They also agreed that any rider with a low cortisol level – an indicator of possible cortisone use – should not start major races.

However some teams did quit the MPCC when their riders stumbled at this obstacle; now the UCI has said it will bring it in across the board.

It is doing so at a time when Professor Xavier Bigard has taken over as UCI Medical Director.

“Glucocorticoids can trigger undesirable side-effects which, in the case of an accident or medical emergency, can be life-threatening,” it said. “For cyclists, we must consider that the potential consequences of corticosteroids are a medical contraindication for practising sport in competition.

“For this reason, the UCI will call on the opinion of international experts in order to define which tests must be carried out before a competition to detect a possible adrenal insufficiency which would therefore be a medical contraindication for competition. A low level of cortisol would therefore mean it is impossible to start the race.

“In addition, it was recalled that local infiltrations of glucocorticoids must be declared by the team doctors and lead to a minimum of eight days off work and competition.”

The governing body has said that it intends that the two new measures should be in place for January 1 of next season.

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