Tour de France: what is tramadol, the illicit substance which led to the disqualification of Nairo Quintana?


Tour de France: what is tramadol, the illicit substance which led to the disqualification of Nairo Quintana?  - franceinfo

Almost a month after being frozen in Paris, the classification of the Tour de France 2022 is turned upside down. Sixth overall, Nairo Quintana learned of his disqualification on Wednesday August 17 because of two positive tramadol tests.

This substance banned by the International Cycling Union is “an analgesic that treats moderate pain. It’s more powerful than doliprane, but less than morphine. Cyclists have used it because it masks pain”explains sports doctor Thomas Simon.

Colombian cyclist Nairo Quintana, July 23, 2022, during the 20th stage of the Tour de France.  (DAVID STOCKMAN/AFP)

This drug has many side effects. “Beyond addiction to this opiate, it can create hallucinations, concentration problems, dizziness and nausea. This poses a problem in a peloton where a fall can take many riders away”details Thomas Simon.

If tramadol is not one of the illicit substances listed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the UCI banned it on March 1, 2019 in the face of the resurgence of falls, assuming that they could be linked to taking the drug. On the other hand, the UCI insists in its press release: use this analgesic “does not constitute an anti-doping rule violation”.

This is why the Colombian is not suspended, but simply downgraded from the last Tour de France. He will be well at the start of the Vuelta, which starts Friday from Utrecht, in the Netherlands.

“It’s not like EPO or a doping substance. Tramadol does not improve performance. It is closer to an infiltration for example, in the sense that it relieves pain. Some sports federations allow. It has been banned by the UCI so that cyclists do not go beyond their limits”says Thomas Simon

“Tramadol is a comfort treatment. You cannot request special authorization for therapeutic use on an analgesic. This exemption is reserved for diabetic or asthmatic athletes, for example”, adds the sports traumatologist.

According to him, officially, “tremadol accounted for 5% of the positive controls in the race during the studies preceding the prohibition of the drug”. Unofficially, its use was very common, assures Yoann Offredo. “Everyone was taking it, except the teams that had committed themselves to the Movement for Credible Cycling, which had already banned this substance, testifies the former professional, who ran at a time when this substance was not yet banned. I’ve never taken it, but among the Anglo-Saxons, in the Sky formation for example, it was common.”

“As it was not banned by the UCI, doctors prescribed it. It helped to limit the pain but it made them all groggy. They took lots and lots of caffeine to counteract the side effects.”

Yoann Offredo, former cyclist

France info: sports

So why did Quintana take this banned substance? “The starting point is pain”, remember doctor Thomas Simon. In its press release, the UCI explained that the two incriminated samples were taken on July 8 and 13, after two major stages: on arrival at the Super Planche des Belles Filles (the 7th stage, where Quintana finished 15th), and at the Col du Granon (11th stage), where he finished behind Jonas Vingegaard, the day the Dane overturned the Tour.

For his part, Nairo Quintana denied any intentional use of the drug according to a press release published on its social networks (in Spanish). The Colombian says to himself “surprised“and announcement”study all the options to ensure his defense“with his lawyers.

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