Nairo Quintana disqualified from Tour de France following tramadol positives

Team ArkeaSamsic teams Colombian rider Nairo Quintana cycles in the ascent of the Col du Granon Serre Chevalier during the final kilometers the 11th stage of the 109th edition of the Tour de France cycling race 1517 km between Albertville and Col du Granon Serre Chevalier in the French Alps on July 13 2022 Photo by Marco BERTORELLO AFP Photo by MARCO BERTORELLOAFP via Getty Images
Naito Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) has lost his sixth-place finish at the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The UCI has announced that Nairo Quintana had been disqualified from the 2022 Tour de France after testing positive for tramadol on two occasions during the race.

The Colombian finished sixth in the race but returned samples containing "the presence of tramadol and its two main metabolites" on stage 7 and stage 11 of the race at La Planche des Belles Filles and the Col de Granon.

Since March 2019, tramadol has been banned for in-competition use, though testing positive for tramadol doesn't constitute an anti-doping rule violation. As such, Quintana is free to continue competing and won't be subject to a racing ban.

"The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announces that the Colombian rider Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas has been sanctioned for an infringement of the in-competition ban on using tramadol as set out in the UCI Medical Rules with the aim of protecting the safety and health of riders in light of the side-effects of this substance," read a statement issued by the UCI on Wednesday.

"The analyses of two dried blood samples provided by the rider on 8 and 13 July during the 2022 Tour de France revealed the presence of tramadol and its two main metabolites.

"In accordance with the UCI Medical Rules, the rider is disqualified from the 2022 Tour de France. This decision may be appealed before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) within the next 10 days.

"Infringements of the in-competition ban on using tramadol are offences under the UCI Medical Rules. They do not constitute Anti-doping Rule Violations. As this is a first offence, Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas is not declared ineligible and can therefore participate in competitions."

Quintana's sixth-place finish at the Tour constituted the best result in the history of his Arkéa-Samsic team as the 32-year-old raced to his best GC placing since the 2016 edition. He had finished 15th at La Planche des Belles Filles and second on the Col de Granon, the two stages where he returned samples positive for tramadol.

The substance is an opiate pain medication which made headlines in the mid-2010s, with the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) having requested a ban on the drug as far back as 2013 following reports of widespread usage in the peloton.

"In addition to the risk of dependence and addiction, commonly reported adverse side effects of tramadol are dizziness, drowsiness and loss of attention, which are incompatible with competitive cycling and endanger other competitors," reads UCI guidance on the drug in the organisation's medical rulebook.

The UCI confirmed that 120 dried blood samples were taken during the Tour as part of the tramadol testing programme. While Quintana will suffer disqualification and a fine for his first infringement, a second would carry a penalty of a five-month ban and a third would carry a nine-month ban.   

The Arkéa-Samsic team did not initially comment on the matter but later issued a statement that effectively amounted to a 'no-comment'.

"Team Arkéa-Samsic has taken note of the notification from the UCI received by Nairo Quintana informing him of the presence of Tramadol in two dried blood samples collected during the last Tour de France," read the statement.

"The UCI Medical Regulations provide for a ban on the use of Tramadol in competition for medical reasons from 1 March 2019. Furthermore, this breach of the UCI Medical Regulations does not result in a suspension for the rider.

"The Arkéa-Samsic team will make no further comment."

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