Attacks in the peloton: Rafael Nadal, injections and cycling, two weights, two measures… really?

Attacks in the peloton: Rafael Nadal, injections and cycling, two weights, two measures… really?

Since Sunday, there has been an inconvenient truth in the peloton. When the fans of the little queen barely pointed their eyes towards the Critérium du Dauphiné, other eyes of the peloton trailed towards the 16th arrondissement of Paris, Porte d’Auteuil. Rafael Nadal had just won a 14th title at Roland-Garros, a historic feat so awaited that the first questions were not so much about the scope of this new victory but about a possible last appearance of the Mallorcan on the clay of the capital city. A hypothesis, and a rumor of an exceptional press conference quickly swept away, before another debate takes place, much more corrosive. Nadal played the “anesthetized” foot, under the effect of injections of anti-inflammatories, the whole fortnight. It did not take less to sting some actors of the bike.

It all started with four words and two emojis. In response to our journalist Laurent Vergne’s Tweet, and the Spaniard’s statements to Eurosport – “It’s better that you don’t know” had replied “Rafa” to Barbara Schett on the number of injections received during the tournament -, Thibaut Pinot placed a first attack. “Today’s heroes” and ellipses tinged with irony.


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The Groupama-FDJ climber, who has already repeatedly spoken out against the use of any medication in cycling, has opened the door and the debate. Placing the words cycling, doping, or even adding Spain to them in the same sentence has given rise to all sorts of reactions, some frankly nauseating, in recent hours. But from these few words from Pinot emerges the groundswell of a latent malaise.

Bad reputation

Perhaps the question is not so much whether the taking of these drugs by Rafael Nadal to fight the Müller-Weiss syndrome should be considered doping. Sports physicians around the world have been struggling with this consideration for many years. And above all, beyond whether his right is good or not, Nadal has – until proven otherwise – broken any rule of world tennis.

For Pinot as for others, the problem is elsewhere. It doesn’t matter that he wears the identity of Rafael Nadal and his gnawed foot, of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his knee without anterior cruciate ligament all season long, or of any other sportsman regardless of the medical file. “Perhaps what Thibaut wants to highlight is that there are differences in regulations but also differences in treatment, image between sports” explains Guillaume Martin in the columns of L’Equipe on Tuesday. The Cofidis runner does not hide it, he has “hard to understand“these differences in practice depending on the discipline concerned. A fortiori vis-à-vis cycling, regularly pilloried for its heavy past.

What Nadal did would have been impossible on the bike, and I find that normalensures the 14th of the last Giro. If we are sick or injured, we don’t run, we don’t compete, that seems like common sense to me. If a cyclist does the same thing, it’s already forbidden, but even if it weren’t, everyone would fall on him calling him doped because there is such a cultural background, such shots attached to the bike.

Cycling still suffers from the institutionalized doping of the Festina in the 90s, the Armstrong and US Postal system of the 2000s and other more marginal examples since. To the point of questioning the least performance. The peloton has complied with more restrictive regulations, much more than in other sports, in an attempt to cleanse its image and its honor. “The bike has chosen to adopt very strict lines which have allowed cycling to restore its imagespecifies the manager of AG2R-Citroën, Vincent Lavenu to France Inter. We have made sure that the health of the runners is the main thing to respect.

“Is it worth continuing? He has given enough”

The wishful thinking of uniform regulations

The Movement for Credible Cycling – which includes half of the World Tour teams, including Groupama-FDJ and Cofidis – aims to go a little further still with an even more drastic moral code (including a ban on controversial ketones). As Guillaume Martin points out in L’Equipe, the only catch of a “tablet to be better” like paracetamol bothers him. So putting two nerves to sleep with painkillers… Everyone sees their “grey zone” at their doorstep. For some, treatment is already too much. does not improve performance.

To remedy this, there are many theories. The most implacable, on paper at least, would be the establishment of international and undifferentiated regulations depending on the sport. To put on an equal footing all the protagonists of the world of sport, Guillaume Martin “pleads” for that. A wish, a dream even as it seems difficult, if not impossible, to get everyone to agree on a common base. The recent examples of Nadal, Ibrahimovic or even the practices of the major leagues across the Atlantic bear witness to this. The NBA or the NFL set anti-doping regulations with their own players and do not report to the World Anti-Doping Agency or even to the American anti-doping agency, USAda.

In the case of Rafael Nadal, once the “legal” considerations are put aside, all that remains is a matter of perception. The main interested party proclaims it elsewhere in L’Equipe, “despite all these physical problems, or because of them, my body has helped me a lot to become who I am.“While ensuring that this cocktail of chronic pain and injections could not last longer. Too long no doubt for the cycling peloton, as much as the jeers at the slightest exploit. His liabilities still make him the ideal ugly duckling. What to what Rafael Nadal is for nothing.

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