Lotto-Belisol team doctor Jan Mathieu has said that the ongoing use of powerful painkiller Tramadol by some riders is a contributing factor in the recent spate of crashes in the opening classics races of 2014, and has renewed calls to have the drug banned.
Tramadol is an opioid, and like other substances in that group it causes drowsiness as a side-effect. Mathieu says that it’s this that has caused riders to lose concentration and cause crashes, according to an interview published by Belgian website sporza.be.
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Teams that have voluntarily signed up to the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC)’s stringent charter do not use the drug, but teams that have not signed up – including Sky, Omega Pharma-QuickStep and BMC Racing – are free to use it as it is currently not on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances.
“Tramadol is a really strong painkiller and has a central effect,” said Mathieu. “It is dangerous for your concentration and you can become addicted to it. The MPCC has asked the UCI and WADA to ban its use.”
Lotto-Belisol have suffered more than most with crash-injured riders, not least with its star sprinter Andre Greipel, who will miss the rest of his spring campaign after suffering from a dislocated collarbone at Ghent-Wevelgem.
WADA added Tramadol to its ‘watch list’ in 2012, and is monitoring its use and abuse within sport.
In addition to Tramadol, Mathieu says that the changes in race routes and fine weather have also created bigger groups of riders reaching pinch-points and finales of races, increasing the likelihood of crashes.
The pre-race favourite crashed heavily with eight kilometres remaining.