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British team Sky claimed none of its riders currently use the controversial painkiller Tramadol in training or racing, but stopped short Monday of denying allegations by ex-pro Michael Barry that he used the still-legal product during the 2010 season.
Barry claims in his soon-to-be-released autobiography, titled Shadows on the Road, that he used Tramadol during his 2010 season with Sky. The powerful painkiller is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list, but many, including Sky officials, say they believe it should be.
In Monday’s edition, The London Times led the sports section with an interview with the now-retired Barry, who left the sport in 2012, weeks before he was revealed as a witness in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case against Lance Armstrong and U.S. Postal Service team management.
“I used Tramadol at Sky. I never saw it used in training, only in races, where I saw some Sky riders using it frequently,” Barry told Times correspondent Jeremy Whittle. “Tramadol made me feel euphoric, but it’s also hard to focus. It kills the pain in your legs, and you can push really hard.”
Barry is the author of Inside the Postal Bus, which detailed his 2004 season with U.S. Postal, as well as 2013’s Le Metier, and the training book, Fitness Cycling, co-authored with Shannon Sovndal and his wife, Dede Demet Barry. In the former, Barry denied doping, though he publicly admitted to having used performance-enhancing drugs following the release of USADA’s reasoned decision in the Postal Service investigation.
Tramadol has attracted bad press over the past several months, and many are pushing WADA to include the drug on its banned list.
In the wake of Barry’s claims, Sky released a statement Monday stating that it currently does not approve the use of Tramadol for its riders during training or racing. According to the team, that policy has been in place for two years.
Team principal Dave Brailsford was unavailable for comment, and a team spokesman was unable to confirm the veracity of Barry’s claims that he took Tramadol during the 2010 season.
“None of our riders should ride whilst using Tramadol – that’s the policy of this team,” said a Sky spokesperson. “Team Sky do not give it to riders whilst racing or training, either as a pre-emptive measure or to manage existing pain.
“We believe that its side effects, such as dizziness and drowsiness, could cause issues for the safety of all riders.
“We also feel that if a rider has the level of severe pain for its appropriate use they should not be riding.”
According to the Times, Barry’s book stops short of any other major revelations. Unlike other recent tell-all books, including Tyler Hamilton’s The Secret Race, which pulled back the curtain on illicit doping programs inside the peloton, Barry makes no major revelations about Sky.
In fact, he claims that Sky is otherwise racing clean, and did not expose any illegal doping practices during his three years with the British outfit, which has won two consecutive Tours de France, with Bradley Wiggins (2012) and Chris Froome (2013).
Sky’s full statement:
None of our riders should ride whilst using Tramadol — that’s the policy of this team.
Team Sky do not give it to riders whilst racing or training, either as a pre-emptive measure or to manage existing pain.
We believe that its side effects, such as dizziness and drowsiness, could cause issues for the safety of all riders.
We also feel that if a rider has the level of severe pain for its appropriate use they should not be riding.
Tramadol is not prohibited by WADA but this has been our firm position for the last two seasons and all medical staff and riders are aware of this.
Our view is that it should be on the WADA list and any appropriate clinical use could be managed through the regulated TUE, or Therapeutic Use Exemption, system.