At USADA, we believe that medical advice should come from physicians, but it’s within our purview to draw attention to health and questions of safety that impact athletes. List due to associated health risks and performance-enhancing capabilities.
One such drug is that the narcotic painkiller tramadol, a still-legal substance in sport that’s both powerful and dangerous. USADA, alongside numerous other organizations within the world of sport, believe that the time is now for WADA to finally move the drug from its monitor program
While USADA and other consulted stakeholders provided substantial evidence about the health risks and abuse of tramadol in sport after WADA requested to discuss its inclusion in 2015, WADA has not yet added the drug, which is being abused in a minimum of one sport. consistent with the WADA monitor program , 71 to 82 percent of the tramadol use between 2012 and 2015 in globally monitored sports occurred in cycling.
Without doubt, tramadol raises legitimate questions on how it should be regulated in sport, because it has both clinical utility and potential for abuse. the talk becomes particularly complex when a drug is associated so closely with one sport.
However, the enormity of the drug’s threat becomes more apparent when some athletes mention their experiences with the powerful painkiller.
An Athlete’s Reality
Ian Mullins, an elite all-terrain bike racer, points out that tramadol is that the go-to painkiller for several athletes, especially cyclists, despite its reputation of abuseUnlike other narcotics, like oxycodone and morphine, athletes know they will buy tramadol 50mg whenever the pain hits and still remain compliant with anti-doping rules.
Which is, in large part, how Mullins got hooked into the drug.
“Using tramadol can feel nearly as good as getting a transfusion for athletes,” says Mullins. “You can pop a pill 18 hours into a 24-hour endurance race and it’s an instantaneous boost that helps you power through the top .”
Fortified by recollections of his doctor saying that tramadol-dependency wasn’t something he’d encountered, Mullins started getting tramadol through other routes when his prescription ran out, wanting the pain relief and believing that he wouldn’t get addicted. But soon , his days were consumed by watching the clock, counting down the minutes between doses.
His addiction was obvious – and disturbing – to both himself and people around him. His dependency destroyed a relationship, and it made him wonder how anyone could simultaneously be a lover and an elite athlete who cares about their body.
Trying to interrupt the addiction, he would avoid taking the drug, only to be overcome by the debilitating symptoms of withdrawal, from nausea to cold sweats. This cycle of need and regret was interspersed with a variety of overdoses that left Mullins disoriented, bleeding, and desperate for rehabilitation.
“Psychologically, I knew I used to be fitness goals, but it took me years of physical struggle to interrupt that addiction.”
This left him questioning how something so powerful then addictive might be allowed in sport.
“I don’t want the other athletes to travel through what I’ve experienced because they think it’s safe to use tramadol simply because it’s not banned in sport,” Mullins notes. “My biggest mistake, aside from taking tramadol within the first place, wasn’t posing for help to urge off it. There isn’t only one thanks to overcome addiction, but assistance is there if you ask, and it can save your life.”
Mullins has witnessed enough fellow cyclists experiencing the highs and lows of tramadol use to understand that he wasn’t the sole one browsing the battle against opioid abuse. Knowing this, he contacted USADA et al. to share his story in hopes of spreading awareness about the difficulty plaguing his sport and fellow cyclists.