Nairo Quintana has been disqualified from the 2022 Tour de France after testing positive for tramadol, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announced on Wednesday, August 17.

The veteran rider for Team Arkea-Samsic has been stripped of his sixth-place finish in the general classification from last month’s Tour. He can appeal this decision within the next 10 days.

“The analyses of two dried blood samples provided by the rider on 8 and 13 July during the 2022 Tour de France revealed the presence of tramadol and its two main metabolites,” the statement from the UCI reads.

More From Bicycling
preview for HDM All Sections Playlist - Bicycling

Quintana won the 2014 Giro d’Italia and 2016 Vuelta a España. The 32-year-old Colombian was twice a runner-up at the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015.

What is tramadol?

Tramadol is a pain reliever. It is a synthetic opioid that has been banned by the UCI, pro cycling’s world governing body, since 2019. It is, however, not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Therefore, in Quintana's case, the UCI’s medical rules were violated, but not their anti-doping rules. Because of this, Quintana is still eligible to compete at the Vuelta a España—which starts on Friday, August 19.

According to WADA, tramadol can be used by athletes to “reduce exertional pain and allow the athlete to work even harder,” but it maintains that “there is currently no convincing research evidence to support or reject whether tramadol is performance-enhancing in highly trained, healthy athletes.”

The UCI has lobbied WADA to ban tramadol for years, but it has not yet been put on its prohibited list.

UCI implemented its ban in 2019 “in order to protect the riders’ health and safety in light of the side-effects of this substance.” Tramadol has been criticized for giving riders an advantage in the peloton, but also putting them at risk for addiction and increase in the potential for falls in competition.

A 2018 Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport study found that tramadol can lead to impaired focus and attention.

BicyclingBicycling Lettermark logo
Dan Beck

Dan is a writer and editor living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and before coming to Runner’s World and Bicycling was an editor at MileSplit. He competed in cross country and track and field collegiately at DeSales University.