Skip to Content


What's changing?

Tramadol capsules

Tramadol will be banned in-competition from 1 January 2024. 

Tramadol is a common, high-strength opioid painkiller and a prescription-only drug in New Zealand. 

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is adding tramadol to the Prohibited List from 1 January 2024. From that date, it will be banned in sport during the in-competition period*. 

From 1 January 2024, having tramadol in your system during the in-competition period without a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) could put you at risk of an anti-doping sanction. 

*From 11.59pm the night before your competition right through to the end of the competition and its doping control processes, unless otherwise defined in competition or IF rules. 

What you need to do 

  • Understand that using tramadol in-competition, or close to competition, puts you at risk of a positive anti-doping test. 
  • Tell your medical professional that you’re an athlete and subject to drug testing. If they prescribe tramadol, ask if an alternative (and not prohibited) medication is possible. 
  • Check competition and International Federation rules to understand when the in-competition starts. 
  • If you still need to use tramadol, prepare a comprehensive medical file – containing all your medical notes – in case you need to apply for a TUE. 

Tricky situations explained

Taking tramadol during the in-competition period 

Taking tramadol during the in-competition period from 1 January 2024 will put you at risk of an anti-doping sanction.  

You may need an approved Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) before you can take tramadol during the in-competition period. 

Your level of competition determines whether you need a TUE in advance or can apply retroactively (i.e. after a positive test). In both cases, you’ll need comprehensive medical records from your doctor or medical team showing: 

  • why tramadol was used over other painkillers, or  
  • previous attempts to control the diagnosis with other painkillers. 

TUE in-advance: High-level athletes need a TUE in advance. This means that a TUE must be in place before the medication is prescribed and used. 

Retroactive TUE: All other athletes only need a TUE if they test positive for tramadol. That's why it's important to keep comprehensive medical records. 

Find out more about TUEs 

Taking tramadol out-of-competition 

It is within the rules to use tramadol out-of-competition. 

However, tramadol can take days to leave your system. Taking it close to a competition means there’s a risk that you could test positive during the in-competition period.  

If that happens, you may apply for a retroactive TUE to show that you took the medication legitimately. That’s why you need to keep comprehensive medical notes from your clinician. To support your TUE application, you must submit medical notes that show: 

  • why tramadol was used over other painkillers, or  
  • previous attempts to control the diagnosis with other painkillers. 

If a TUE is not approved retroactively, you may face an anti-doping sanction. 

No TUEs for out-of-competition tramadol use. 

We understand that the possibility of returning a positive test in-competition means that some athletes would like a TUE in advance for out-of-competition tramadol use. Unfortunately, as no rules are being broken by using tramadol out-of-competition, we cannot provide a TUE in advance. Simply keep comprehensive medical records in the event that they are needed and ensure you’ve confirmed with your doctor that there are no permitted alternatives available.