'I'm tired of having pills in cycling, I think it's grotesque', says retiring 21-year-old rider

Ludvig Wacker says level of pills being used by riders he raced against was "ridiculous"

Ludvig Wacker
(Image credit: Team DSM)

Retiring Danish rider Ludvig Wacker has described the use of pills in cycling as "grotesque."

The 21-year-old, who rode for the Sunweb Development team in 2019 and 2020, described the level of legal pills, such as painkillers, being used as "ridiculous" and that they were "very easy to access." He didn't name any riders or teams directly.

Wacker said in an interview with Danish website Feltet.dk that he had chosen not to take any pills during his fledgling career, which he has decided to end due to feeling "mentally exhausted" and because he was "afraid of crashing" having come off at high speed during the Randers Bike Week in 2020.

"I'm tired of pills in the sport. It may be legal pills, but I'm tired of having pills in cycling, and I think it's grotesque, it should be so clear," Wacker said.

"It simply came to our notice then. In the big races, people ride around with small containers in their pockets with pills and so on. 

"I have never wanted to take something myself, and then you know that in all the finals, the others take something you do not take yourself. These include painkillers and caffeine, among other things. It's completely ridiculous the amount of people taking, because you do not know what it can mean for the rider's body in 20 years.”

"I often think it is the young riders who do it themselves. It is not necessarily the team that is responsible for it. The riders can get it themselves. It is very easy to access."

The use of pain killers in cycle sport has been an ongoing issue, with many painkillers legal to use while racing or accessible through Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE). The powerful painkiller tramadol was banned in-competition in cycling from March by the UCI, despite not being on the World Anti-Doping Agency banned substance list.

Wacker says he will now take some time away from the bike as he begins his life away from cycling. On his Twitter account he pointed to his victory at the 2017 junior Gent-Wevelgem as his favourite moment, adding that it was "unreal" that he'd ridden the Paris-Roubaix Juniors.

“I have learned an incredible amount from living abroad," Wacker, who moved abroad at 18, said. "I am really proud of that. I'm so glad I took that opportunity. Also that I got as far in the sport as I did. It is completely unreal that I have ridden the junior edition of Paris-Roubaix. I have generally really ridden some big races.

"I would like to put the bike on the shelf a bit now. I do not even own a bike right now. I handed it in a few days after I stopped. I'm starting to play a little football with some friends, and I really enjoy it. I'm damn bad, but I can figure out how to run. So I do not do the big thing, but just run in the way."

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Richard Windsor

Follow on Twitter: @richwindy

Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.

An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).