The UCI found irregularities in the veteran pro cyclist's blood samples taken in mid-July and stripped the rider of his sixth place general classification finish at the Tour de France.
Nairo Quintana riding Stage 12 up the Alpe d'Huez on July 14th.
For those unaware, the UCI typically follows regulations passed down by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). WADA provides a full list of banned substances, research, reasonings, and more. However, tramadol is one of the few exceptions. Presently, WADA has been conducting research on the substance, and in 2019 published findings by the University of Kent that raise concerns about athletes using the substance to block pain receptors to push their natural limits. The conclusion of the findings states that there is not enough research to correlate the ability of a top-level athlete to the usage of the substance, which may be one reason why tramadol is not on WADA's list of banned substances.
However, UCI is an independent organization that is fully capable of making its own decisions, which was the case in 2019 when it chose to create its own ban on the substance. In an official statement from UCI, the ban began in 2019 and was the result of WADA research beginning in 2012 with evidence of possible misuse published in 2017. What complicates things is that the official statement released by UCI in 2019 states that the punishments for using the synthetic opioid were meant to be minimal, only stating, "If two riders belonging to the same UCI-registered team commit an offense within a period of 12 months, the team will be fined CHF10,000. If a further offense is committed within the same 12-month period, the team will be suspended for a period of 1 to 12 months, to be determined by the UCI Disciplinary Commission."
Nonetheless, UCI released an official statement on August 17th regarding the punitive actions taken against Nairo Quintana. The statement reads, "Rojas has been sanctioned for an infringement of the in-competition ban on using tramadol ... the rider is disqualified from the 2022 Tour de France ... As this is the first offense, Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas is not declared ineligible and can therefore participate in competitions. The UCI will not comment further on the matter."
Quintana is allowed a period of 10 days to fight the punishment and has chosen to do so. The rider maintains his innocence in an interview with Colombian media stating, “Today I realized by surprise the news from the UCI of an infraction for the use of tramadol ... I am totally unaware of the use of this substance, and I deny ever using it during my career ... With my legal team we will exhaust every means to prepare my defense." It is worth noting that tramadol is a prescription-only synthetic opioid and therefore unlikely to be taken by accident.