Team Sky has reiterated its stance on the painkiller Tramadol following reported claims from former rider Michael Barry that he used the drug while racing for the team.
Barry told The Times newspaper that "Tramadol made me feel euphoric, but it’s also hard to focus. It kills the pain in your legs, and you can push really hard.”
According to the Press Association, Barry said he used Tramadol to treat legitimate injury and pain but became concerned when studied the drug's side effects on the internet.
"I had nagging injuries throughout my career and I used it when I was injured and racing injured, but I also realised the side-effects," he said. "It was a lot stronger than I thought and is potentially addictive."
"In a sporting environment, everybody's paycheck is reliant on that rider's performance. Everybody involved is biased and the rider's health is secondary to their performance."
"Athletes are very much commodities. It's not something unique to cycling; it's something you see in American football, hockey, gymnastics."
Barry rode for Team Sky until September 2012. He admitted doping between 2002 and 2006 while riding for Lance Armstrong's US Postal Service team. He testified about his doping as part of the USADA investigation and was banned for six months.
Team Sky doctor Allan Farrell, a full-time doctor with Team Sky since 2012, admitted to Cyclingnews last October that the British team had used Tramadol in the past. However the team's latest statement indicates a change in policy.
"Certainly in our team we would have used it in the past but only when justified.” Farrell told Cyclingnews in October. “We would have prescribed it, very minimally but sometimes if someone had an injury that justified pain killing medication.”
Tramadol was included on the WADA "monitoring programme" in 2012 for "possible in-competition abuse" and its status is under review, meaning it could be added to the WADA Prohibited List for 2015. WADA has acknowledged that the drugs has been found in lots of anti-doping tests it carries out.
In recent months Garmin-Sharp team doctor Prentice Steffen, BMC rider Taylor Phinney and the MPCC (Movement for Credible Cycling) have called for Tramadol to be banned or its use managed via a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) system. It is widely suspected that some teams allow their riders to train and race while using the drug despite the risk it can lead to dizziness and so cause crashes. Team Sky has a strong stance against doping but is not a member of the MPCC.
"None of our riders should ride whilst using Tramadol –that's the policy of this team. Team Sky do not give it to riders whilst racing or training, either as a pre-emptive measure or to manage existing pain," Team Sky said in its latest statement.
"We believe that its side-effects, such as dizziness and drowsiness, could cause issues for the safety of all riders. We also feel that if a rider has the level of severe pain for its appropriate use, they should not be riding."
"Tramadol is not prohibited by Wada, but this has been our firm position for the last two seasons and all medical staff and riders are aware of this. Our view is that it should be on the Wada list and any appropriate clinical use could be managed through the regulated TUE."