The second stage of Paris-Nice on Monday saw something of a landmark for professional cycling as the first tests for tramadol took place. Six riders, including stage winner Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), were tested for the controversial painkiller, according to Het Laatste Nieuws.
Tramadol is not on the World Anti Doping Agency's list of banned substances – it remains on their 'monitoring list' – and the UCI moved to prohibit it independently, with the new regulations coming into effect at the start of March.
Tramadol is an opioid-based painkiller that has been said to have been abused by pro riders seeking the performance-enhancing effects of the dulling of pain sensations during intense efforts. It is also said the drug can cause drowsiness and is seen as a danger in terms of crashes.
After a WADA report last year found tramadol use in cycling was higher than any other endurance sport, showing up in four per cent of doping controls, the UCI announced its plans for the ban, with WADA content to see the governing body implement its own regulations. They officially came into force on March 1, but the first tests were only carried out on Monday.
Along with Groenewegen, five other riders were called to give samples after stage 2 of Paris-Nice. They were: Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Sergio Henao (UAE Team Emirates), Amael Moinard (Arkea-Samsic), Anthony Turgis (Direct Energie) and Cyril Gauthier (Vital Concept B&B Hotels).
A small amount of blood was taken from the riders' fingertips, which will be sent off to a laboratory for analysis. Results will then be sent to the UCI's medical director within four to five days.
The rules state that a first offence will see the rider in question disqualified from the race they're competing in and handed a CHF 5,000 fine. A second offence would see a rider disqualified and handed a five-month suspension. Any further offences will result in a rider receiving a nine-month ban.
For teams, if two riders test positive within a 12-month period, they will be fined CHF 10,000. An additional offence within that same period will result in a team-wide ban of anywhere between one to 12 months.
There is no lower threshold for the amount of tramadol a rider can have in their system, so any amount will be considered a positive test.