Drug tests carried out on ‘international racing cyclists’ have revealed three riders had a muscle relaxant in their system, researchers have found.
Experts from the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Strasbourg, France have published a research paper after they carried out tests for French public health police, checking for the presence of Tizanidine, a muscle relaxant used to treat spinal cord injuries or multiple sclerosis.
The researchers revealed the tests were carried out after French police raided a professional cycling team during an “international three-week cyclist race in France.”
The report does not name the race, riders, or team in question.
After officers searched the team’s rooms and found medical devices and products, a forensic specialist was called in to take hair samples from seven of the riders.
Police reportedly found boxes of tizanidine in the team doctor’s room, prompting forensic experts to test riders for the substance.
The research report said that three of the riders tested had the drug in their system.
Tizanidine, sold under the brand name Zanaflex or Sirdalud, is used to treat muscle spasticity linked with conditions like spinal cord injury or MS. Side effects can include dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, to more serious effects like hallucination and depression.
The substance is not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) however, and it’s not clear why the drug would be used in cycling.
In 2019, the UCI took the unprecedented step of banning the painkiller tramadol unilaterally, without being prompted by WADA, over concerns about rider safety, due to side effects of drowsiness and loss of concentration.
Tramadol is not included on WADA’s list of prohibited substances, but a study conducted by university academics found that riders’ power output was higher when taking the painkiller.
Anyone in the professional peloton caught using tramadol faces disqualification, suspension or a ban.
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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.
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