UCI celebrates anti-doping decision to ban all use of a corticosteroid type 

The World Anti-Doping Agency has decided to prohibit all types of glucocorticoids from next year

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The UCI is celebrating the anti-doping decision to ban all use of a corticosteroid type in competition from next year.

Cycling’s international governing body was preparing to unilaterally ban the use of glucocorticoids in the peloton, because of concerns about the health side effects, but the decision has now been made by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

WADA has announced that glucocorticoids will be banned from competition at the start of 2022, regardless of the type of injection being used. 

Glucocorticoids are a type of corticosteroid hormone that is very effective at reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune system, used in the treatment of allergies, arthritis and asthma, which may also have performance enhancing properties, including helping a rider lose weight while maintaining power.       

These type of drugs hit headlines in 2016 after hackers revealed that Sir Bradley Wiggins had taken triamcinolone, a glucocorticoid, before winning the 2012 Tour de France, with Wiggins and Team Sky accused of crossing an ethical line by administering the drug.  

The UCI, which traditionally bases its anti-doping rules around WADA’s banned substance list,  has been pushing for WADA to ban certain drugs that can be used in cycling, which resulted in the UCI unilaterally banning the painkiller tramadol over health and safety concerns.  

UCI president David Lappartient said: “The decision to generalise the ban on glucocorticoids in competition regardless of the type of injection is a new step forward in the protection of the health of athletes, especially of cyclists, which was among my campaign commitments in 2017.

“After the banning of tramadol in competition since 2019 and the introduction of a protocol for managing concussion in 2021, this is new and important progress for the health of high-level athletes, a central theme of the Agenda 2022, our sport’s strategic roadmap. I am pleased that the banning of glucocorticoids comes under the authority of WADA, which I would like to thank for this decision that represents progress for sport in general and cycling in particular.”

Taking glucocorticoids is currently banned in competition if taken orally, intravenously, or via intramuscular methods, but the new WADA ban outlaws the drugs via other methods including epidural (injected into the spine) and subcutaneous (under the skin). 

But questions about the ban have been raced by EF Education-Nippo boss Jonathan Vaughters, who said: “The devil is in the details. How exactly do you determine if corticoids were taken before the competition or during? 

“Also apparently out-of-competition use still A-ok, with no restrictions?

“Out of competition use to lose body mass is not covered?” 

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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.