November 20, (THEWILL) – The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), has announced that the painkiller, tramadol, will be banned effective January 1, 2024, a move motivated primarily by concerns about athlete welfare. The ban comes amid growing evidence that tramadol can enhance performance by reducing perceived effort.
UK indoor track champion, Andrew Heyes, supports WADA’s decision, though he says he has not personally witnessed tramadol use. “Dealing with pain is one of the challenges we face in the sport we are competing in,” Heyes said. “But using tramadol shouldn’t be something you are looking at.”
WADA was also moved to act by high-profile cases like that of footballer, Chris Kirkland, who has battled tramadol addiction. “It is so good that we have him here to talk about his experience of dealing with that and what he sought in terms of help”, Heyes said.
Going forward, education will be critical to steer athletes away from prohibited substances like tramadol, according to Heyes. “If you can help athletes to make the right decisions early on in their careers and approach sport from a stance where cheating just isn’t accepted, I would rather there was a focus on that,” he said.
Heyes expressed hope for a more “compassionate approach” to anti-doping, where athletes with mental health struggles can get support rather than punishment. “It is really important that people have the space and time to say, ‘this is a massive issue for me’ and know where to go”, he said.