Study reveals tramadol, corticoids remain popular in peloton

Legal but controversial painkiller tramadol present in 4.4 percent of controls tracked by WADA study

The edges of the WADA code continued to be pushed, according to a new study released this week that tracks uses of potentially abused allowed substances.

Topping the list? The powerful, opioid-like painkiller tramadol, with glucocorticoid-steroids to treat inflammation a close second.

The use of tramadol is legal, but remains a controversial issue among the international peloton.

The World Anti-Doping Agency released updated information this week across Olympic sports of the use of products on its monitor list. Cycling remains among the top sports for high uses of products on the monitoring list.

WADA data from thousands of tests from a range of Olympic sports reveals cycling was at the top of the list for tramadol, and third behind skiing and athletics for glucocorticoids.

Since 2015, WADA has been tracking several allowed products under its code via a type of watchlist. These products, which also include codeine, Beta-2 Agonists, telmisartan, and mitragyine, are allowed under anti-doping rules. Many, however, are calling for several of these products to be added to the banned list.

Here’s how the tramadol numbers shake out: In 2017, 548 revealed high traces above 50ng/ml among 12,554 controls in cycling, at about 4.4 percent.

WADA also tracked glucocorticoids, with in-competition testing coming back with 3.8 percent showing traces. In out-of-competition testing, the number nudges to 4.4 percent.

The take-away? Many riders are using these products though they remain highly controversial — yet legal under WADA rules.

The exploitation of the so-called “grey areas” is where many suspect that riders and teams are trying to push the envelope. Though allowed, many view such products as tramadol as highly suspect.

The MPCC (Movement for Credible Cycling) has been pushing WADA to add tramadol and other allowed products to be added to the banned list. Its seven WorldTour members abide by a stricter code than what’s spelled out by WADA.