A few years ago, I wrote an article in conjunction with Cycling Tips about tramadol, and the fact that it isn’t banned for use in sport. In 2019, the International Cyclist Union (UCI) decided to take their own action and ban tramadol for use “in competition” in all cycling disciplines.
However, instead of banning it outright, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has kept tramadol on the Monitoring Program. This is where specific substances are monitored for potential misuse in sport.
According to it’s release notes for the 2023 banned substances list, WADA has decided to include tramadol on the Banned Substances List from the first of January, 2024.
WHAT EXACTLY IS TRAMADOL?
Tramadol is a scheduled, prescription only medication. It is a synthetic opioid which is classed as an “opioid like” substance. While it is technically not an opioid as such, it acts on the same receptors as other opioids, such as morphine, oxycodone and codeine.
In the body, it produces similar effects to opioids in terms of pain relief. In addition, it produces similar side effects to traditional opioids, the main one being drowsiness.
WHY IS IT BEING BANNED?
According to WADA, monitoring data has shown tramadol being “significantly used” in sports including cycling, football and rugby. Tramadol has a history of abuse, with addiction and dependence being a significant risk factor. WADA have also funded research studies, which show that tramadol use has the potential to enhance physical performance in sports.
WADA have made the decision to delay the addition of tramadol to the banned substances list until 2024. This is in order for athletes and medical personnel to prepare for the change; as well as allowing labs to update procedures and sports authorities to develop educational tools.
Athletes, coaches and medical staff who are associated with sporting teams and clubs need to be aware of these changes, so please share this information to anybody who you might need to know about it!