How does Tramadol influence your athletic performance?

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Granada scientists have just published a study that analyzes the effects of this potent analgesic not classified as “dopant” but with adverse side effects. Cyclists are the group that most abuses this substance to relieve intense muscle pain.

Last December, the sprinter Juan José Lobato was dismissed by the Dutch Lotto-Jumbo team, who accused the cyclist of having used -and have given it to two teammates- forbidden drugs during a training session in Sant Feliu de Guíxols.

The Spanish cyclist only admitted having taken a sleeping pill – which left him almost drugged, unable to wake up – and denied that he shared it with his companions. But skipping the ban on any substance that is not prescribed by the team doctor ended his season with the Dutch. An exemplary punishment sounds like a warning to other cyclists.

In addition to sleeping pills – to alleviate insomnia caused by intensive exercise, stress or excess caffeine – another of the drugs extended among elite athletes is the opioid analgesic Tramadol, which relieves severe muscle pain and has dangerous addictive potential.

It is not classified as a “doping substance” by the World Anti-Doping Agency ( WADA ), but it is under observation because its adverse side effects are known, such as loss of concentration, lack of reflexes and drowsiness. Precisely the Belgian team Lotto already had in 2014 to several of its cyclists in the infirmary by inexplicable falls during the Tour of Flanders, possibly related to the Tramadol.

Effects on sports performance

Although the gossips related the side effects of the analgesic with this type of falls within the cyclist peloton until now it has not been studied how the drug affects performance and the central nervous system.

Scientists from the University of Granada ( UGR ) have just published a pioneering study on Tramadol in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. The research, developed by the Center for Research, Mind, Brain, and Behavior ( CIMCYC ), analyzed the effects of this substance in a 20-minute cycling trial against the clock and the brain performance was then monitored in a cognitive task.

The clinical trial – which used a double-blind procedure and compared Tramadol with placebo – showed an increase in physical performance of 5%. But measurements by electroencephalography have not been conclusive to know the cerebral effects and still do not consider warning the AMA.

“The results of the study are not conclusive, so we must be very cautious when it comes to stating that Tramadol improves sports performance or that it has an effect on stimulus processing. This is the first study of this type, so more research is needed to corroborate whether the use of the analgesic carries some kind of effect on sports.

CIMCYC prepares new research to deepen the effects – hitherto unknown – on sports performance, and its conclusions could influence the future of Tramadol as a legal or illegal substance in cycling.

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