Tramadol use in the peloton must stop

It’s no surprise that former professional Michael Barry was quoted in the Times last week criticising Team Sky’s use of painkillers. The Canadian retired from Sky prior to his United States Anti-Doping Agency confession and now has a new book to promote.

Combined, these two facts mean that on no account is Barry ever likely to be complimentary about his former employers. But bitterness and hype aside, these latest allegations raise concerns about riders’ health and safety.

Barry exited Team Sky after testifying to the USADA investigation into doping while riding for Lance Armstrong’s US Postal team. Now in his new book, Shadows on the Road, he is critical of the painkiller tramadol and says that he was given it when he raced for Sky. He describes it as “as performance-enhancing as any banned drug I had taken”.

Barry told the Times: “Tramadol packaging warns against driving or operating machinery, so I can’t see how racing down narrow cobbled lanes at 50km an hour on tramadol can ever be a good thing.”

Lotto-Belisol have already criticised the increasing use of the drug, and have blamed it for the spate of crashes in the Classics.

Surely this isn’t a case for more legislation, just common sense. I’ve seen the effect tramadol can have when it is prescribed to people. Riding a bike is the last thing they should be doing.

Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly

  • Alan

    I take at least 4 Tramadol plus 5 other painkillers every day so I CAN ride my bike with no ill effect, I’ve bee hit by cars 3 times, once I was covered over for dead by a Police man. My body’s wrecked so with out them I wouldn’t be able to cycle

  • Dick_Turpin

    Thanks buddy, one of the downsides of riding a bike is the other idiots on the road. :/ Thankfully, my luck was in, so could have been worse. :)

    As you say, the line is a difficult issue, but I guess it is in part illustrated by my own case: I was given this particular painkiller to help me deal with very significant traumatic and post-operative injuries. If otherwise fit and healthy riders are choosing to take and ride with something *that* strong, especially pre-emptively, then that has to be the wrong side of the line.