The Daily Telegraph

Painkiller ‘of choice’ faces ban by Wada

Tramadol to be added to prohibited list for next year Opioid linked to addiction in both football and rugby

- By Ben Rumsby sport investigat­ions Reporter

A powerful painkiller behind harrowing stories of addiction in football and rugby is on the brink of being banned by the World Anti-doping Agency.

Wada’s executive committee is expected to rubber-stamp a recommenda­tion that tramadol be added to its prohibited list when it meets on Friday.

The ban would come two months after former Liverpool and England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland revealed he had been so addicted to the opioid that he came close to taking his life. In 2019, former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams said that “tramadol is the new drug of choice” among rugby league players ahead of a stint as president of the Rugby Football League.

The revelation by Adams, who said his Sporting Chance clinic had helped 400 rugby league players wean themselves off prescripti­on painkiller­s since 2011, was followed by rugby union players lifting the lid on a culture of prescripti­on drug use – particular­ly of tramadol. The drug, which can cause nausea, drowsiness and a loss of concentrat­ion, has been on Wada’s monitoring programme for a decade and there has been mounting pressure for it to be added to the prohibited list, including from UK Anti-doping.

It was banned by cycling’s governing body, the UCI, in 2019. This summer, Nairo Quintana was retrospect­ively stripped of sixth place at the Tour de France after tramadol was found in two of his blood samples.

He denies taking it and this month lodged an appeal at the Court of Arbitratio­n for Sport.

Tramadol is prohibited by the UCI only in competitio­n. A Wada ban would not prevent it being taken out of competitio­n.

However, it would stop tramadol being used to allow an injured player to play through the pain, something a therapeuti­c use exemption would unlikely be granted for.

Kirkland, whose career was plagued by back problems, revealed this summer that he had at one stage been taking 2,500 milligrams of tramadol a day, more than six times the maximum recommende­d. He said his addiction to painkiller­s had deepened his anxiety to the extent that he suffered hallucinat­ions and was hyperventi­lating, almost leading to him taking his life.

Kirkland said there were other players taking such medication who had contacted him, and some were scared to go public due to fears it would cost them their place in their teams.

Any Wada ban would come into force from Jan 1.

Wada refused to comment on plans to add tramadol to the prohibited list, but said in a statement: “The list is reviewed annually in consultati­on with scientific, medical and anti-doping experts to ensure it reflects current medical and scientific evidence and doping practices.

“Tramadol does feature on the monitoring programme for 2022.

“The monitoring programme includes substances that are not on the prohibited list, but that Wada wishes to monitor in order to detect patterns of misuse in sport.”

Ukad also declined to comment, but had said following the UCI ban: “The UCI has banned tramadol over concerns about a series of negative health effects if taken without correct medical guidance. As stated on the UCI website, these include nausea, drowsiness and a loss of concentrat­ion, increasing the risk of race crashes.

“It can also cause users to become gradually more dependent on the substance, resulting in the possibilit­y of developing an addiction.”

 ?? ?? Risks; Tony Adams, left, warned about tramadol addiction, while Chris Kirkland said he suffered from hallucinat­ions
Risks; Tony Adams, left, warned about tramadol addiction, while Chris Kirkland said he suffered from hallucinat­ions

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