The UCI has committed to banning the use of Tramadol in competition beginning on January 1, 2019, citing health reasons as its main concern over the synthetic opioid painkiller. In addition, testing will be carried out to detect possible adrenal insufficiency, and glucocorticoids must be declared by the team doctors and lead to time off competition.
Tramadol is not currently on the WADA banned list but experts believe that it has long been abused within the professional peloton, and it has been on the World Anti-Doping Agency's monitored list.
The UCI Management Committee recently hired Professor Xavier Bigard as UCI Medical Director and together they made some important decisions concerning glucocorticoids and analgesics (notably Tramadol), the UCI wrote in a press statement following its three-day meeting in Arzon, France to validate its Agenda 2022.
"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 UCI noted that Tramadol 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.
"As a reminder, glucocorticoids can trigger undesirable side-effects which, in the case of an accident or medical emergency, can be life threatening. For cyclists, we must consider that the potential consequences of corticosteroids are a medical contraindication for practising sport in competition."
The UCI will therefore move towards banning the use of Tramadol in competition for health reasons, a process it says is currently underway and in the short term will lead to the integration into the UCI Medical Rules of provisions to ban Tramadol.
It expects that these two measures concerning glucocorticoids and Tramadol will be put in place for January 1, according to its statement.
The use of Tramadol to mask the pain of intense efforts in races has been on the radar the MPCC for more than five years. The group has been calling on WADA to ban its use in competition.
Last week, the World Anti-Doping Agency released data from its Monitoring Programme - where it tracks the use of substances that are not on the banned list but are being tracked for potential abuse- and Tramadol showed up in over four per cent of all doping controls tested.