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Drug Addiction in Cycling: One Man’s Personal Story


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Ian Mullins, 40, is a professional mountain biker based in Seattle. He started taking a drug in 2008 to ease pain after a bicycle accident. The drug, Tramadol, not only stopped his pain but improved his performance by allowing him to race through any physical discomfort. Soon, he was addicted.
For seven years, he struggled with addiction to the painkiller. Eventually, it took over his life. He then needed the drug just to keep from being sick from withdrawal.
When he couldn’t get Tramadol, he took other medications trying to get the same feeling and to keep the sickness at bay: hydromorphone, Percocet, Codeine syrup, fentanyl, and some forms of Benadryl. Most of the time, however, he found a street supply of prescription grade Tramadol to use.
In 2015, Mullins bottomed out. His life was falling apart due to his addiction. At that point, he started his road to recovery which has not always been smooth. He has battled depression and other emotional and psychological issues entwined with drug addiction and sobriety. But, he continues his quest.
As part of his recovery, Mullins is warning cyclists and other athletes about the dangers of Tramadol. A study by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) shows that 80 percent of Tramadol abuse occurs in the sport of cycling. It is routinely given to some racers, toward the end of a race, combined with caffeine to give them a finishing kick.
For four years the drug has been on WADA’s “watch list” but to date, it has not been banned by the agency.
Although the drug is still legal worldwide, Mullins has made significant headway with the US Anti-doping Agency. It is now pushing to have Tramadol added to the list of banned substances as a performance enhancing drug.
Mullins hopes that by sharing his story of addiction he will help other cyclists and athletes avoid the difficulties that he has encountered.