Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The movement for credible cycling (MPCC) has branded the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) answer to its call for a ban on all glucocorticoids and tramadol as ‘reckless’. On 6 October, the MPCC said that it had sent a letter to WADA asking it to ban both substances.
In 2016, WADA’s List Expert Group considered a proposal to add glucocorticoid intra-articular injections to the Prohibited List, however there were concerns that by doing so, WADA would be banning its legitimate use to treat inflammatory joint conditions. International Cycling Union (UCI) regulations recognise the unique situation in cycling by banning use of glucocorticoid injections eight days before a race.
‘Scientific evidence indicates that the performance enhancing benefits of glucocorticoids are very narrow indeed; and that, for the most part, the use of glucocorticoids in sport is detrimental to performance (as well as health), which is a message that needs to gain wider reach’, reads WADA’s letter of response to the MPCC (PDF below). ‘In 2015, Tramadol was considered for inclusion on the List but, as it may be legitimately prescribed as part of a therapeutic regimen in certain situations, the majority of stakeholders felt that it should not be prohibited but rather be regulated by physicians, and physician groups, as part of proper medical practice’.
‘Most of science articles around the world, as well as expert endocrinologists consulted by the MPCC claim that corticoids have a positive effect on performance’, said the MPCC in a statement. ‘We consider that we have not received any answers to our questions. We don’t accept this answer, we rule it as incomprehensible’. Newly-elected UCI President David Lappartient said that he would implement a corticosteroid and tramadol ban if elected.
All glucocorticoids are prohibited under section S9 of WADA’s Prohibited List ‘when administered by oral, intravenous, intramuscular, or rectal routes’. However, they are permitted in competition (IC) via other routes of administration, and out of competition (OOC). “The hope was that the detection method for routes of administration would be developed”, WADA’s Director General Olivier Niggli told the Tackling Doping in Sport conference in March. “That hasn’t happened. Only those who are being honest about what they have been doing get caught. Otherwise you always say it was a cream, and you get away with it.”
Tramadol, an opioid-based painkiller, currently does not feature on WADA’s Prohibited List, but was added to its Monitoring Programme in 2016. There have been claims that tramadol has been abused in cycling, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is understood to be investigating its use in sport. During 2015, two Australian rugby league players came close to death after overdosing on the painkiller.
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