Professional athletes will no longer be able to use tramadol. The Executive Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) followed on Friday “the recommendation of the group of experts”, composed of a dozen scientists, to ban this synthetic opiate in competition from January 1, 2024, following an executive council meeting in Sydney. WADA was considering the list of prohibited products that it reviews annually.
The delay should allow athletes and their entourages to adapt to this new ban. “It will also give the scientific community time to adjust the exact details related [aux futures] procedures so that fairness can be ensured for the athletes”, adds the agency. And to the sports authorities “the time to develop educational tools for athletes and for medical personnel […] in the fight against doping”.
In support of this decision, the world policeman in the fight against doping has put forward studies showing the ability of the analgesic to improve physical performance, which has been discussed until now. The AMA also recalls that tramadol, like all opioids, can lead to strong dependence with risks of addiction.
The substance is particularly involved in the opiate crisis that has shaken the United States for several years. On the leaflet of the drug, it is thus written that tramadol can cause “a physical and/or psychological dependence even at therapeutic doses”.
Prohibited in the bike from 2019
Until now only considered dangerous, he had been under the supervision of WADA since 2012 in competition, the body simply wishing the “monitor to be able to determine the potential prevalence of use in sport”but did not appear on WADA’s list of prohibited substances and products.
However, its use had been prohibited by the medical regulations of the International Cycling Union (UCI) since 2019. It was often used by runners, as evidenced by the data recorded in the WADA monitoring program. His ban was aimed “to preserve the health and safety of the runner in light of the side effects of tramadol”, explained the UCI at the time. The authority justified its reversal by advancing other side effects that the substance can cause, not mentioned by the AMA: the risks of drowsiness and loss of attention, which increase the risk of falling in the race.
According to the figures communicated by the UCI in 2019, among the urine samples positive for tramadol taken in the context of 35 Olympic sports over the whole of 2017, two thirds concerned this discipline. Last August, the Colombian rider Nairo Quintana was disqualified from the last edition of the Tour de France, after the analyzes of “two dried blood samples provided by the runner on July 8 and 13” 2022 ont “revealed the presence of tramadol and its two main metabolites”, explained the UCI.
The authority specified however that it was not a question of “anti-doping rule violations” but D’“breaches of the UCI medical regulations”. Quintana was therefore able to get back on a saddle and can claim to participate in the next races. Until January 1, 2024.