The Nadal case of two-speed sport, cycling regrets

After cycling at two speeds, exercising at two speeds? Rafael Nadal’s resort to injections to numb his left foot and win Roland-Garros caused the French peloton to react, which saw the suspicion of his discipline unjustified, according to Jacky Maillot, the French teams’ coordinating physician.

Close to Thibaut Pinot, who started the debate in three words (“today’s heroes …”), after Nadal explained that he had had several injections, the doctor, who is also the medical director of the Groupama-FDJ team, AFP of an update on the differences in treatment, both for payment and for image with the general public.

“My tweet (3 words) that caused so many comments fell on Nadal, but it could have been a golfer, horse rider, handball player, basketball player, fencer, rugby player, weightlifter, skier, football player, surfer, cyclist, etc.”, Thibaut Pinot responded Tuesday to criticism of his position. “Because I have my beliefs, a different view of sports and sports performance than yours perhaps?”

Compared to other sports, also subject to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regulations, cycling differs by having the “no needle” rule in place for a decade.

– Shots prohibited –

“We are no longer allowed to use syringes in the context of a competition,” confirms Dr. tights. “If a runner needs it because he is injured or sick, especially for mesotherapy care, we need to find other ways to treat him. If a runner needs an infiltration, we need to stop it. is the rule both international and French”.

Groupama-FDJ rider Thibaut Pinot on the Tour de Romandie in Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland, May 1, 2022 (AFP/Archives – Fabrice COFFRINI)

The only exception is the use of injectable medication on a runner who is a victim of gastroenteritis with vomiting and severe abdominal pain at night. “By definition, you should not take tablets or other medicines orally in case of vomiting. Injections are possible, but this must be justified as soon as possible at the UCI. These are generally quite benign medicines,” explains Dr. Maillot. †

If this “don’t bite” rule applies to all cycling, however, differences exist between the teams that have joined the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) and the others. “It mainly involves the use of TUEs (therapeutic use authorization) or ketone body-type dietary supplements,” the doctor specifies.

– “The most watched sport” –

“Rafa” Nadal received by a physiotherapist during a match in Indian Wells, March 19, 2022 (AFP/Archive – Frederic J. BROWN)

If he notes a positive evolution of the regulations (“even though it is not strict enough in my opinion yet regarding the granting of TUEs that varies from one country to another”, he adds), Dr. Maillot agrees with the dominant opinion in the cycling community: “It would be desirable for all athletes to be treated the same.”

“We still hear + doped sport + when it’s definitely the cleanest sport out there, the most regulated sport, the most watched sport,” he says. “A team like ours (Groupama-FDJ) has about 250 doping controls a year, which is a lot, but which is normal. If we want a clean sport, we need doping controls. If we don’t put radar on a road, there will be never speeded”. “Cycling pays for its past,” he says.

“The runners make such superhuman efforts for everyone that you have the impression that you cannot achieve these efforts naturally. I can assure you the opposite.”

Cofidis rider Guillaume Martin in front of a participant in the Tour of Italy in Balatonfured, Hungary, on May 8, 2022 (AFP/Archives - Luca Bettini)
Cofidis rider Guillaume Martin in front of a participant in the Tour of Italy in Balatonfured, Hungary, on May 8, 2022 (AFP/Archives – Luca Bettini)

Hence the reactions of runners such as Thibaut Pinot and Guillaume Martin: “They defend their sport, which still bears this label of doped sport. They undergo enormous restrictions and want to clear their honor. It is normal for them to react against what they perceive as a injustice”.