The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) has written to its members to raise awareness of the dangers of tramadol.
Tramadol is a strong, prescription-only painkiller that has been cited by former Liverpool and England international goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland, as the source of an addiction that almost destroyed him
On January 1, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will add tramadol to its prohibited list and, from that point onwards, anybody caught with it in their system will face a lengthy ban.
The PFA has taken the unusual step of emailing its members, including 5,000 current footballers, to highlight the risk the drug potentially poses and make it clear there is a deadline approaching, beyond which there will be serious consequences.
“The concern we have is there is an explicit acknowledgement that it is an addictive substance,” says Ben Wright, the PFA’s director of external affairs.
“It’s habit-forming, it’s an opiate and it’s often referred to as being in the same family as heroin. It can sound like an extreme comparison, but it is fairly well accepted.”
Why football fears tramadol: ‘It’s an evil drug – it nearly killed me’
The Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League and the Women’s Super League are aware of the risks with punishments likely to be severe.
“Ultimately, if you fail a test, you risk a significant ban,” says Wright. “From our understanding, the risk is a two to four-year ban.”
WADA made the announcement in October of last year giving users 14 months to wean themselves off it given its addictive nature.
“We wanted to force a recognition among players that this is coming down the line and if they need support, now is the time to start doing it rather than it becoming, with the deadline looming, an anti-doping issue,” says Wright.
Kirkland is supportive of the ban.
“Somebody is going to get caught,” he says. “I’m glad this ban is happening because it’s a dangerous, dangerous drug. But you’re not going to eradicate it and somebody will fail a test, it’s inevitable. It’s going to be extremely tough for a lot of players because there will be many who rely on it.”
Whatever you’re going through, you can call the Samaritans in the UK free any time, from any phone, on 116 123.
FRANK provides a confidential service in the UK to anyone wanting information, advice or support about any aspect of drugs. You can call free in the UK, from any phone, on 0300 123 6600.
(Photo: FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images)