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MPCC won’t demand tougher action over Nairo Quintana tramadol case

Group has long campaigned for a ban on tramadol, UCI imposed restrictions as a result.

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The Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) group has long required its members to adopt tougher stances than non-member teams, including a two-year ban on signing riders who have tested positive and been suspended for more than six months, as well as a mandatory eight-day rest from competition for those who need corticosteroid injections.

But despite news this week of a positive test for tramadol by Nairo Quintana, it appears that the MPCC won’t push for a bigger penalty than the loss of results imposed by the UCI.

MPCC President Roger Legeay spoke to VeloNews after the news of Quintana’s positive test emerged on Wednesday. The UCI announced that the analysis of two blood samples taken from the Colombian had revealed the presence of tramadol and its two main metabolites.

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It said that he would lose his results from the Tour de France. Quintana finished sixth overall, as well as second and fifth on stages.

However because the tramadol ban is a health measure rather than part of standard anti-doping rules, the UCI stated that positive tests for the substance do not constitute anti-doping rule violations.

The governing body said that because this was a first offense for the rider, he was not declared ineligible and can therefore continue to race.

Asked by VeloNews if this was acceptable to the MPCC, Legeay indicated that it was.

“It is a very strong decision,” he said. “To lose the place in the Tour is a strong decision for the rider and also for the team. It is very hard for the team, because you know the points are necessary to stay in the World Tour, or to arrive in the World Tour. So it is a strong decision.

“The decision is not a problem with the MPCC. It is a problem for the team, in terms of the penalty.”

Quintana decided not to start the Vuelta in the wake of the tramadol case. (Photo: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Arkéa-Samsic is vying to become part of the WorldTour next season. Quintana’s expulsion from the Tour will cost it 450 points, making that WorldTour goal more difficult to attain.

When the positive test was announced, Quintana was not blocked from the Vuelta a España and indeed indicated that he would take part. And while he ultimately decided not to ride, Legeay — who was speaking before the rider withdrew from the Arkéa-Samsic lineup for the race—said that the group didn’t have an opinion on his participation.

“That is a decision of the team, it is not a decision of the MPCC. We are all in the MPCC in a voluntary way. It is completely the decision of the team, they make the decision.”

Quintana has insisted he never used tramadol and has said he will fight the case in the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Pushing for a stronger WADA stance

Legeay is a former professional. While he tested positive for amphetamines during his career, he has argued for many years that more needs to be done to stamp out doping. He was a founder of the MPCC in 2007.

The voluntary group has pushed for a ban on the use of tramadol for many years, and has lobbied the World Anti-Doping Agency to prohibit the opioid painkiller from use in competition.

While WADA is yet to agree to a ban, the UCI did introduce a total restriction on its use since March 1 2019. In order not to clash with WADA, the UCI said that the tramadol ban was a health measure. But, whatever way it is described, and even if the penalties aren’t anything like as stringent for products on the WADA banned list, Legeay believes the UCI stance represents a success for the MPCC.

“The MPCC did the job to have a very strong decision about tramadol,” he said. “The UCI put it on the rules about health, so it was a good job from the MPCC and the UCI. They did the controls for the Tour, they did a good thing. With that said, we hope that no rider uses tramadol.

“That is the situation. We pushed for a new rule, we have a new rule and the new rule is working. You can’t use tramadol and if you use tramadol, you have a sanction.”

Legeay still wants WADA to embrace an official ban.

“The MPCC worked very hard to put tramadol in the banned list for AMA [WADA],” he said. “At this time it is not on the blacklist, but I know for the future they are considering that. We will keep pushing for that.”

As for Arkéa-Samsic, he’s willing to give it the benefit of the doubt at this point in time.

“The Arkéa team is a member of the MPCC. They also pushed hard in relation to [banning] tramadol. The team is not implicated in this situation,” he said.