Reminder to riders as painkiller to be banned in competition

  • The painkiller tramadol is being added to the human anti-doping list, meaning it cannot be used by riders in competition from 1 January 2024.

    The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced in September 2022 that the drug would be included on its 2024 list of prohibited substances and methods. This means that any competitor who tests positive for the drug during competition could face a ban.

    A British Equestrian spokesman told H&H that this rule applies to all those competing in national and international affiliated competition – and noted that tramadol given shortly before competition may still result in an in-competition positive test.

    She added that tramadol does fall under therapeutic use exemption (TUE), so an exemption may be granted if an athlete has illnesses or conditions that require them to take medications.

    “[Exemptions] must meet the criteria set out in the international standard for TUEs in order to be granted,” said the spokesman.

    “Athletes and their medical professionals must consider carefully whether a TUE is likely to be approved and ensure they have the necessary medical documentation to support their TUE application. If the TUE is not approved, the athlete may face an anti-doping rule violation.

    “Talk to your doctor about alternative medication that is permitted in competition if you take tramadol.”

    TUEs must go through the correct process to be considered and should be applied for well in advance – retrospective exemptions are only considered in rare circumstances, such as an emergency.

    Tramadol, a prescription drug in the UK used to treat moderate to severe pain, has been on WADA’s monitoring programme. Data collected through that programme has “indicated significant use in sports”, according to the agency.

    “Tramadol abuse, with its risk of physical dependence, opiate use disorder and overdoses, is of concern worldwide and has led to it being a controlled drug in many countries,” said a WADA statement.

    “Research studies funded by WADA, as referenced in the explanatory note, have also confirmed the potential for tramadol to enhance sports performance.”

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