'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

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ChrisS
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'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by ChrisS » Sat Apr 18, 2020 12:28 pm

Just watched Neil Beltchenko's interview with Sofiane Sehili for Bikepacking.com. It's a really interesting half-hour and well worth a watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s55r-cENgsc

The YouTube summary mentions the "doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550", as if this was common knowledge, and then Neil says during the interview that Alan "found a doping drug" during last year's HT.

Either I've been living under a rock or "doping scandal" is a slightly overblown way of putting it. I had noticed that the 2019 group start completions were never posted on the Highland Trail website, but there could be any number of reasons for that.

A potentially sensitive topic, but can anyone enlighten me?

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by slarge » Sat Apr 18, 2020 1:30 pm

One rider found an opened packet of Tramadol on the ground somewhere in Fisherfield in a place where only riders would have been. This is on the list of drugs banned by the UCI. Alan gave riders a chance to own up, but no one did, hence there were no results published. Also there was nearly no future HT550’s as he didn’t want his event tarnished. We don’t know who found the drugs, or who was in front of that rider, so speculation was kept to a minimum, and very little fuss and discussion happened - it is Alan’s event and his views on both the drug, the results and open discussions were respected.

It is a real shame that whoever it was who dropped the drugs didn’t own up, but I think that says more about that person than any other action.

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by Lazarus » Sat Apr 18, 2020 1:39 pm

its not really surprising a cheat would not have any moral integrity and admit it.

further discussion is pointless because there were clearly more than one rider in front of them and it would be shame to out the "suspects" who can never be cleared because the cheater wont be honest .
Should not happen on any cycling event nevermind a grassroutes one.
At least Alan had some honour and gravitas about him.

It would be a real shame to lose the event due to one bad apple

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by ScotRoutes » Sat Apr 18, 2020 1:40 pm

in a place where only riders would have been
That's an interesting assertion. I'm guessing that the condition of the packet/contents was such that it hadn't been lying out long but the HT550 route is on established paths and tracks.

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by Shewie » Sat Apr 18, 2020 1:43 pm

When did Tramadol become performance enhancing though?

I had a course after some surgery a few years ago and suffered with nausea and dizziness, not ideal for riding?

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by ChrisS » Sat Apr 18, 2020 1:50 pm

slarge wrote:
Sat Apr 18, 2020 1:30 pm
One rider found an opened packet of Tramadol on the ground somewhere in Fisherfield in a place where only riders would have been. This is on the list of drugs banned by the UCI. Alan gave riders a chance to own up, but no one did, hence there were no results published. Also there was nearly no future HT550’s as he didn’t want his event tarnished. We don’t know who found the drugs, or who was in front of that rider, so speculation was kept to a minimum, and very little fuss and discussion happened - it is Alan’s event and his views on both the drug, the results and open discussions were respected.

It is a real shame that whoever it was who dropped the drugs didn’t own up, but I think that says more about that person than any other action.
Thanks for the summary of events Slarge.

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by AlasdairMc » Sat Apr 18, 2020 3:26 pm

Shewie wrote:
Sat Apr 18, 2020 1:43 pm
When did Tramadol become performance enhancing though?

I had a course after some surgery a few years ago and suffered with nausea and dizziness, not ideal for riding?
I have a couple of close relatives who take it, and it’s clear they’re off their tits on even one tablet. It’s really not the sort of thing that can enhance the performance of an endurance race where your alertness is compromised.

Similarly, I’ve hallucinated on the HT550 without the need for any drugs whatsoever.

I spoke with a neuro-anaesthetist (who helpfully has bikepacking race experience) and he agreed it was unlikely to be beneficial to whoever it was. There’s also the case that nobody knows if it belongs to a rider or a walker who was in the area.

I do respect Alan’s decision that there’s too much ambiguity though so it’s impossible to actually know. My one regret though is that by not announcing who found it, those riders behind that person don’t get any recognition for their rides despite being absolved of any blame.

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by voodoo_simon » Sat Apr 18, 2020 3:38 pm

From Michael Barry, ex-pro cyclist (US postal, T mobile and Sky)

Tramadol made me feel euphoric but it’s also hard to focus. It kills the pain in your legs and you can push really hard.


Sources from https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/ ... r-tramadol

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by sean_iow » Sat Apr 18, 2020 4:33 pm

Shewie wrote:
Sat Apr 18, 2020 1:43 pm
When did Tramadol become performance enhancing though?
I did some googling last year after Alan's email.

One source said they used it in 24hr races, take it at hour 18 and you feel like you've just started again.

I think the uci were looking at a total ban due to the widespread use in the pro peleton.
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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by u02sgb » Sat Apr 18, 2020 6:39 pm

I was given it when I had laser eye surgery. I went for PRK (painful one) so it was definitely necessary.

You are quite spaced out and you know that there is some pain there but you just don't care. I would think it could help you push past pain limits effectively.

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by composite » Sun Apr 19, 2020 1:27 am

Some idle speculation...

Someone had legitimately had a course of them for "whatever" and in the same way I carry ibuprofen/paracetamol fairly often on rides, were carrying the pain killers that they had left from their "whatever" and simply had no idea it was a banned drug. How many of us have a clear idea about what is on the UCI list? I would have no idea what so ever. :shock: Also, it was added to the list in March 2019, just 2 months before the HLT550.
Genuine error/ignorance does not excuse not fessing up though. I guess they might not have admitted it because they got scared of what it might mean for their entry to future events?

If taken in prescription doses to combat severe pain from an operation or such, it has the side effects mentioned but maybe if taken in smaller doses it could turn down the pain enough to help but not have the negative side effects?

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by ScotRoutes » Sun Apr 19, 2020 8:58 am

Someone in my family was prescribed Tramadol for pain relief. Its not exactly difficult to come by. As Neil says, if I'd been taking it on advice of my GP then it would never had occurred to me to check it was banned. I didn't even know the HTR550 operated under UCI rules. :lol:

I wonder if the next start of the BB200 will see Stu standing with a ruler and checking our sock lengths?

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by Mariner » Sun Apr 19, 2020 9:09 am

I wonder if the next start of the BB200 will see Stu standing with a ruler and checking our sock lengths?
We are allowed socks. :o

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by redefined_cycles » Sun Apr 19, 2020 9:24 am

ScotRoutes wrote:
Sun Apr 19, 2020 8:58 am
Someone in my family was prescribed Tramadol for pain relief. Its not exactly difficult to come by. As Neil says, if I'd been taking it on advice of my GP then it would never had occurred to me to check it was banned. I didn't even know the HTR550 operated under UCI rules. :lol:

I wonder if the next start of the BB200 will see Stu standing with a ruler and checking our sock lengths?
Oh crap

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by boxelder » Sun Apr 19, 2020 3:45 pm

Someone in my family was prescribed Tramadol for pain relief. Its not exactly difficult to come by. As Neil says, if I'd been taking it on advice of my GP then it would never had occurred to me to check it was banned. I didn't even know the HTR550 operated under UCI rules. :lol:
If this was the case and they were prescribed, the person that dropped them could have explained that when asked. They didn't. The event, like most of this type doesn't operate under UCI rules, but a clear code of 'no cheating' agreed to by all. It sounds like Alan got this spot on - didn't jump to conclusions, offered a chance for it to be cleared up and when it couldn't be, he decided not to publish times. Those who completed for personal challenge still know what they achieved. Thankfully it's not stopped him continuing to invest the hours he does in the event.

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by Blackhound » Sun Apr 19, 2020 6:59 pm

This thread was the first I had heard of it as well. I seem to recall reading that in the pro peloton the problem was that it was causing accidents due to riders being 'off there tits' as Alasdair put it. Had not realised it was on the UCI doping list though.
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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by Richard G » Thu Apr 23, 2020 3:15 pm

I tend to carry some fairly extreme painkillers because I've got a habit of smashing myself to bits, and when that happens you may very well be in the ass end of no-where with a need to get yourself to civilisation / help.

I have used them once on a ride, and it made the difference between not being able to ride at all, and riding reasonably comfortably... surrounded by pillows, possibly on a cloud, all toasty warm. I sure as sub standard wouldn't have wanted to be on a road, but for getting past some hills when I could have barely walked up them without the pain killers... they definitely worked.

(It wasn't me that dropped my stash, I wasn't there!)

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by ScotRoutes » Thu Apr 23, 2020 3:33 pm

Richard G wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 3:15 pm
I tend to carry some fairly extreme painkillers because I've got a habit of smashing myself to bits,.......
.... I could have barely walked up them without the pain killers... they definitely worked.
Which is precisely why they are a banned drug.

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by Ian » Thu Apr 23, 2020 5:57 pm

ScotRoutes wrote:
Sat Apr 18, 2020 1:40 pm
in a place where only riders would have been
That's an interesting assertion. I'm guessing that the condition of the packet/contents was such that it hadn't been lying out long but the HT550 route is on established paths and tracks.
Indeed. Maybe no-one admitted it, because it wasn't a rider that dropped it?

If it were in the core part of Fisherfield, it could be anyone. If you've done the bit out from Carnmore to Letterewe it could be 50/50, but if you're heading south to Kinlochewe, it's more likely to be a rider, but by no means conclusive.

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by Richard G » Thu Apr 23, 2020 7:04 pm

ScotRoutes wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 3:33 pm
Which is precisely why they are a banned drug.
Yeah, there's zero doubt in my mind that they'd work.

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by slarge » Thu Apr 23, 2020 7:25 pm

Ian wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 5:57 pm
ScotRoutes wrote:
Sat Apr 18, 2020 1:40 pm
in a place where only riders would have been
That's an interesting assertion. I'm guessing that the condition of the packet/contents was such that it hadn't been lying out long but the HT550 route is on established paths and tracks.
Indeed. Maybe no-one admitted it, because it wasn't a rider that dropped it?

If it were in the core part of Fisherfield, it could be anyone. If you've done the bit out from Carnmore to Letterewe it could be 50/50, but if you're heading south to Kinlochewe, it's more likely to be a rider, but by no means conclusive.
It's kind of a done deal now though. Alan made a call, most people supported him (I think, I didn't see anyone else's emails to him) and we moved on. I'm sure that Alan will be reminding future riders that anything stronger than paracetamol is off limits, and to be honest I think he's right. Whether a rider dropped it, or someone else he has put a high bar in place for adherence to the rules (he always did, even when he DQd himself for borrowing a shock pump). I

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by sean_iow » Thu Apr 23, 2020 7:49 pm

Ian wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 5:57 pm
Indeed. Maybe no-one admitted it, because it wasn't a rider that dropped it?
These days it's a controlled drug but it used to be prescribed much more readily. It's use is being reduced because it's easy to become dependant.

If somebody (walker or rider) had been prescribed it because they needed it to manage pain then would they be in physical shape to be heading across one of the most remote locations in the UK?

It could be that they were prescribed it for a genuine reason and became dependant so are still taking it even after they've recovered from the original aliment. I have a friend who was still taking it 2 years after surgery.

I understand that's it use (abuse) is quiet widespread in road racing, both amateur and professional.
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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by htrider » Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:38 pm

I think the balanced view of Alan was that they wouldn't be taken casually (and the packet dropped) by a passing walker. If a walker had them it would be more a last minute desperation / get me out of here please kind of thing. So in all likelihood it was someone from the group start.

Personally I use Irn Bru - enough sugar and caffeine to enliven a corpse :-bd

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by Ian » Thu Apr 23, 2020 9:26 pm

I’m certainly not criticising Alan for the call he made. Was just looking at it with some objectively (which I’m sure Alan also did, so it was a tough call to make). Asking someone to come forward presumes one of the riders was guilty, which might not be the case. As it is, everyone is guilty until they can prove their innocence. Which is obviously a shame for those who can prove they were innocent by being behind the rider that found the packet.

But I get the “case closed” nature, and negativity that hangs around the issue. Disappointing, which ever way you look at it.

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Re: 'Doping scandal of the Highland Trail 550'...?

Post by ScotRoutes » Thu Apr 23, 2020 9:28 pm

Ian wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 9:26 pm
Which is obviously a shame for those who can prove they were innocent by being behind the rider that found the packet.
There would be an advantage in being last then :lol:

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