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Tramadol is a performance enhancing drug in highly trained cyclists. A randomised controlled trial

Mauger, Alexis R., Thomas, Trudy, Smith, Samuel Andrew, Fennell, Christopher R.J. (2023) Tramadol is a performance enhancing drug in highly trained cyclists. A randomised controlled trial. Journal of Applied Physiology, 135 (2). pp. 467-474. ISSN 8750-7587. E-ISSN 1522-1601. (doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00338.2023) (KAR id:102014)

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Tramadol is a potent narcotic analgesic reportedly used in multiple sports to reduce exertional pain and confer a performance advantage. This study sought to identify whether tramadol enhances performance in time trial cycling. Twenty-seven highly trained cyclists were screened for tramadol sensitivity and then attended the laboratory across three visits. Visit 1 identified maximal oxygen uptake, peak power output and gas exchange threshold through a ramp incremental test. Participants returned to the laboratory on two further occasions to undertake cycling performance tests following the ingestion of either 100 mg of soluble tramadol or a taste-matched placebo control in a double-blind, randomised, and crossover design. In the performance tests participants completed a 30 min non-exhaustive fixed intensity cycling task at a Heavy exercise intensity (272 ± 42 W), immediately followed by a competitive self-paced 25-mile time trial (TT). Following removal of two outlier data sets, analysis was completed on n=25. Participants completed the TT significantly faster (d = 0.54, p=0.012) in the tramadol condition (3758 s ± 232 s) compared to the placebo condition (3808 s ± 248 s) and maintained a significantly higher mean power output (+9 W) throughout the TT (ƞp2 = 0.262, p=0.009). Tramadol reduced perception of effort during the fixed intensity trial (p=0.026). The 1.3% faster time in the tramadol condition would be sufficient to change the outcomes of a race and is highly meaningful and pervasive in this cohort of highly trained cyclists. The data from this study suggests that tramadol is a performance enhancing drug.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00338.2023
Projects: 19C03AM - Is tramadol a Performance Enhancing Drug?
Uncontrolled keywords: pain; cycling performance; prohibited list; doping; analgesics
Subjects: R Medicine > RS Pharmacy and materia medica
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Sport and Exercise Sciences
Depositing User: Lex Mauger
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2023 10:24 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2023 14:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Mauger, Alexis R..

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Thomas, Trudy.

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Smith, Samuel Andrew.

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Fennell, Christopher R.J..

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