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Tramadol ban, joint Worlds and gender equality on UCI agenda

Joe Robinson
22 Jun 2018

A whole host of changes announced as UCI takes strides in the fight against gender disparity and the use of tramadol

The UCI has unveiled an ambitious agenda for the next four years, which includes the banning of painkiller drug tramadol, the indefinite approval of disc brakes, a surge towards gender equality and a joint World Championships across all cycling disciplines every four years.

These changes were announced at the UCI Management Committee in Arzon, France, yesterday giving an indication of the direction of the UCI up to 2022. While some of the plans, such as the joint World Championships, are pending confirmation, some changes will come into effect immediately.

The most notable promise set out by the UCI in this recent agenda is the concerted effort to battle gender inequality in professional cycling, which a particular focus on the ethical standards set within the sport.

Rules and regulations will now apply during podium ceremonies including a policy in which the host and hostess outfits will need approval from the UCI. This will first come into effect at the 2018 World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria.

Potential sexual harassment will also be addressed, with the UCI announcing, 'All employees of UCI Women’s Teams will be required to sign a strict Code of Conduct that aims to raise awareness of and increase responsibility around the harassment that certain riders may face, including from within their own teams.' 

Furthermore, the UCI organised cyclocross World Cup will now offer equally prize money for the women's competition but only for the overall standings rather than individual races. This will be enacted for the upcoming season, although the UCI believes it will take three more years before women competitors see complete pay parity. 

Tramadol was also high on the UCI agenda, with the governing body announcing a ban on the powerful painkiller in competition. 

Citing health reasons, the UCI stated that tramadol produces 'side-effects such as dizziness, loss of alertness, drowsiness, or physical dependency and risks of addiction to opioids' which is why the governing body has made steps towards banning it.

The issue of tramadol has loomed over the sport for quite some time. It has been long known that tramadol is widely used in the professional peloton with some riders even speaking of potential abuse of the substance. 

The issue for the UCI had always been that the World Anti-Doping Agency has not changed its stance on tramadol, and previous UCI president Brian Cookson failed in his attempts to have the drug banned.

However, it seems that now the UCI has  decided independently from WADA that the drug should be barred from use in competition. 

Alongside the banning of tramadol, the UCI has also changed its approach to glucocorticoids, coming into line with the MPCC (Movement for Credible Cycling). 

The statement reads, 'The UCI will call on the opinion of international experts in order to define which tests must be carried out before a competition to detect a possible adrenal insufficiency which would therefore be a medical contraindication for competition. A low level of cortisol would therefore mean it is impossible to start the race,'

'In addition, it was recalled that local infiltrations of glucocorticoids must be declared by the team doctors and lead to a minimum of eight days off work and competition.'

The UCI, again, has used medical concerns as the reason for this change stating glucocorticoids can cause 'undesirable side-effects which, in the case of an accident or medical emergency, can be life-threatening.'

Previously, teams that subscribed to the voluntary MPCC had accepted a ban on the substance and agreed to withdraw any rider with low cortisol levels from racing. Now these rules will be universal across professional cycling.

These new rules will come into effect on 1st January 2019.

Away from these anti-doping reforms, the UCI has also announced that disc brakes will now be permitted in road cycling, ending its four-year trial thanks to an agreement made between teams, riders, mechanics and commissaires.

The other big change is the proposal of a mass World Championships in each year preceding the Olympics.

Starting in 2023, the UCI plans the hold the World Championships for each discipline of cycling at the same period over 17 to 19 days in a mass 'celebration of cycling'. The event will then take place every four years, with the following three years reverting back to the current format.

The mass event will bring together the events for road cycling, mountain biking, track, BMX, urban, para-cycling, indoor cycling and the amateur gran fondo all being held in the same destination.

The hope is that this amalgamation of events will bring the spotlight onto the smaller events, with them sharing the same space as the more high profile races such as the men's and women's road race. 

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