Westra admits using tramadol and caffeine as performance enhancers

After it emerged last week that he had used Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) to enable him to take cortisone injections, Lieuwe Westra has admitted to using the painkiller tramadol and caffeine pills as performance enhancing aids. The revelations come from Westra’s new autobiography, 'The Beast', which is due to be released on Tuesday.

In the book, Westra describes how, prior to the individual time trial at the 2016 Three Days of De Panne, he took a tramadol tablet and a 600mg caffeine pill – the equivalent of six cups of coffee. 

The tramadol helped him to push his pain threshold in the 14.2-kilometre time trial, while the caffeine was for more energy. Westra eventually finished third in the time trial, three seconds behind stage winner Maciej Bodnar, which was enough to seal him the overall win.

Asked by Dutch publication Volkskrant if his so-called 'grey area' methods were excessive, Westra said no.

"People say: 'why do you use tramadol? Why a puffer? You do not have asthma anyway'," he told the newspaper. "The answer is simple: because it is allowed and because you will perform better. And if I do not, someone else will. That's what a cyclist thinks."

Neither caffeine nor tramadol is on the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances but both are on the monitored list. Caffeine was once banned but was removed in 2003 to prevent athletes who consume coffee, tea or certain fizzy drinks from testing positive.

Tramadol has never been on the banned list but its use has been a contentious issue, particularly in cycling. There have been accusations of misuse of the drug and some have linked it to causing crashes. A month after he was appointed last autumn, UCI president David Lappartient spoke of his desire to have the painkiller banned by 2019.

When Westra admitted using cortisone the Astana team claimed it was 'surprised', saying that "forbidden drugs are never and will never be provided to any rider." The team also warned it could "demand financial compensation from the rider, since the use of doping is strictly prohibited by the internal regulations of the team, which is signed by each rider." 

Buying races to boost contract value

According to Volkskrant, Westra also admitted to buying his first professional victory at the 2009 Arno Wallaard Memorial. Racing in his first season at ProTour level with Vacansoleil, he beat German Eric Baumann in a two-up sprint.

"'Make sure there is a victory behind your name, Lieuwe, if necessary you pay for it because you always earn it back from your contract negotiations'," Westra recalled the advice his teammate Aart Vierhouten gave him.

"The time had come during the Arno Wallaard Memorial. I was away with a German sprinter, Eric Baumann. I would lose anyway and risked it. 'A thousand?' I called. He nodded. It was that simple."

In the interview with Volkskrant, Westra maintained that he hadn’t done anything wrong and that neither case was cheating.

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