UCI plans to ban corticosteroids under same rules as tramadol

President David Lappartient says the substance will be forbidden on health grounds

UCI president David Lappartient (Photo by Reinhard EISENBAUER / various sources / AFP)
(Image credit: AFP/Getty Images)

The UCI has unveiled plans to ban powerful corticosteroids because of concerns over rider safety.

Corticosteroids are an anti-inflammatory medicine prescribed for a range of health conditions, including asthma and injury to joints, muscles and tendons.

Some versions, like nasal sprays or injections to joints are allowed in competition, but others like intravenous injections and pills are banned in races and require a therapeutic use exemption (TUE).

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) says that glucocorticoids, a class of corticosteroids, “seem to be performance enhancing.”

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But the international governing body is now looking to ban the substance on the grounds of rider safety, not performance enhancement, Reuters reports.

UCI president David Lappartient told the news organisation: “We named a group of experts to show it is dangerous for your health.

“We are hopeful to be ready to ban it for the beginning the 2020. The idea is to not have corticosteroids in our sport in 2020.”

Lappartient said he intends to ban corticosteroids in the same way as tramadol, the opiate painkiller prohibited by the UCI since the start of March.

Tramadol, which is frequently used by riders according to WADA, was banned by the UCI despite not being on the banned list of the international anti-doping authority.

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WADA says it is not convinced tramadol has performance-enhancing benefit, but that it could be banned in the coming years.

Corticosteroids hit the headlines in 2016 when a group of Russian hackers leaked athletes’ therapeutic use exemptions.

The leak revealed Sir Bradley Wiggins had permission to inject triamcinolone, a corticosteroid, prior to the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Tour, and the 2013 Giro d’Italia – his season’s goals for those years.

Wiggins was granted the TUEs to treat a pollen allergy, but a report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) found that Team Sky “crossed and ethical line” in giving Wiggins the substance.

David Millar, a retired pro who confessed to doping before becoming a campaigner against performance enhancing drugs, said triamcinolone had a major impact on his performance on the bike.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.