Former Sheffield Wednesday keeper’s painkiller addiction shows time is right for Tramadol ban, says rugby star

Chris Kirkland was taking more than six times the recommended daily dose of the prescription-only painkiller at the height of his addiction.
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Chris Kirkland’s crippling addiction to prescription painkiller tramadol shows why the upcoming ban in sports is the right move, according to former rugby ace Christian Day.

Former England and Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Kirkland revealed last year that his addiction made him consider taking his life, and at points he "didn’t know who he was".

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He was taking more than six times the recommended daily dose of the prescription-only opioid at the height of his addiction.

Christian Day, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) Athlete Commission senior member and former Northampton Saints star, said: "Chris's was that kind of addictive journey, where he was taking it so regularly and was so used to taking it, that it became a real issue to get off it.

"That really does highlight the risk of this drug and that there are real reasons why it’s going to be prohibited [in-competition].

"It's not good for long term health, there are implications around different bodily functions if you use it for extended periods of time."

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People who become addicted can suffer from withdrawal reactions such as agitation, panic attacks, shaking, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety.

Day is urging those within rugby to be aware of the in-competition Tramadol ban, which will be in place from January 1st, 2024. 

"Most people's perceptions of anti-doping are hardcore steroids, injecting and really quite dark practices," said Day. 

"Whereas Tramadol is a drug that, during my career, was commonly used and prescribed by doctors because it is such an effective painkiller. 

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"It was a well-used drug for so long and as much as strides have been made in recent years to phase it out and move on to alternatives, I think the risk remains that some athletes may still be using it either via their doctor or by exterior means."