The Bahrain Victorious team ignored suggestions that hair tests on three of their riders searched by French police during the Tour de France discovered traces of the powerful muscle relaxant Tizanidine.
French researchers revealed the details of the hair tests in a paper published in the Wiley Analytical Science Journal by Pascal Kintz, Laurie Gheddar and Jean-SÃ©bastien Raul.
The researchers explained that the French investigators had specifically asked them to create a hair test for Tizanidine, “on the basis of suspicion because numerous boxes of tizanidine were found in the team doctor’s room.”
The substance is not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The research paper, seen by Cycling news, does not identify the Bahrain Victorious team or name the three riders.
The document reads: âDuring a three-week international cycling race in France, a special public health division of the police checked an entire team. In addition to police checking rooms and medical devices and supplies, a trained forensic scientist was called in to take hair samples from seven cyclists.
Bahrain Victorious confirmed Cycling news when the team was raided after stage 17 of the Tour de France. Sonny Colbrelli confirmed to Italian media during the race that he donated a hair sample.
A press release from the Marseille prosecutor’s office at the time specified that the investigation concerned the possible “acquisition, transport, possession and import of a substance or method prohibited for the use of an athlete without justification by members of the Team. Bahrain Victorious.
The team reported that although items such as cell phones were seized, no one was immediately investigated formally, although Bahrain Victorious team doctor Marjan Korsic was formally questioned at the end of the Tour de France.
Tizanidine, also known by the brands Sirdalud and Zanaflex, is not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, but the research paper says it is not available in pharmacies and can only be ordered through hospital services .
The researchers write that Tizanidine âcan be used alone or in combination for pain management in tension headaches, acute low back pain, chronic pain associated with cerebral palsy, or acute postoperative pain. It has recently been recognized in the treatment of opioid withdrawal.
The document indicates that levels of 1.1, 3.7 and 11.1 pg / mg of Tizanidine were found in three hair samples.
Possible side effects include dizziness, hallucinations, strange dreams, depression, increased muscle spasms, and a tingling sensation in the arms, legs, hands, and feet.
In 2019, the UCI banned the use of the painkiller Tramadol, going beyond the WADA code after the opioid was used in races by a number of teams.
According to a doping expert contacted by the Geneva Tribune, who wished to remain anonymous, athletes have long used Tizanidine, possibly off-label, to help relieve muscle pain.
âOver a three week race. recovery plays a key role. After a few days, after having covered 180 km per day, cyclists find it difficult to fall asleep because their muscles are too tight. This could be an explanation for the presence of Tizanidine in the team’s pharmacy, âsaid the doping expert.
Bahrain Victorious continued in the Tour de France after the police raid, with Matej MohoriÄ winning stage 19 and claiming the riders had been “searched like criminals” but “had nothing to hide”.
Immediately after police raid team director Milan Erzen said Cycling news: “They disturb the runners for an hour and at the end they say thank you. They didn’t tell us what the reason for the visit is.”
Erzen ignored the report that traces of Tizanidine were found in the hair of three of his riders.
“What is it? We don’t use this. Never heard of it. He said Cycling news in a first message.
He later said: âOur team and / or our riders have not been officially or unofficially informed of these findings. Therefore, the team has no comment on this.