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HomeSportsThe Menace of Tramadol: A Footballer's Near-Death Experience

The Menace of Tramadol: A Footballer’s Near-Death Experience


Last week, every footballer in England and Wales received an email warning them about a painkiller that, until now, they might never have realised could put them at risk.The warning came from the Professional Footballers’ Association and, to put it into context, the drug in question, tramadol, is described as “evil” by one of the players who has found out the hard way how dangerous it can be.

“The concern we have is there is an explicit acknowledgement that it is an addictive substance,” says Ben Wright, the PFA’s director of external affairs. “It’s habit-forming, it’s an opiate and it’s often referred to as being in the same family as heroin. It can sound like an extreme comparison, but it is fairly well accepted.”

Tramadol is a strong, prescription-only painkiller that has been cited by Chris Kirkland, the former Liverpool and England international goalkeeper, as the source of an addiction that came close to destroying him.

On January 1, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will add tramadol to its prohibited list and, from that point onwards, anybody caught with it in their system will face a lengthy ban.That, however, is causing concerns among the football authorities when there is considerable evidence that an indeterminable number of players are either using it, or reliant upon it, as a perfectly legal part of their routine.

“Somebody is going to get caught,” says Kirkland. “I’m glad this ban is happening because it’s a dangerous, dangerous drug. But you’re not going to eradicate it and somebody will fail a test, it’s inevitable. It’s going to be extremely tough for a lot of players because there will be many who rely on it.”


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