In the aftermath of Rafael Nadal’s historic victory at Roland Garros, two leading French runners have spoken out to express their discomfort with the injections the Spanish tennis star used to treat his injured foot throughout the tournament.
Nadal won a record 14th Roland Garros crown and a 22nd Grand Slam title on Sunday, later revealing that treatment for a persistent foot problem included injections to close certain nerves and put his foot in place, as he did described, “to sleep”.
Thibaut Pinot took to social media to offer a sardonic version of the question. Quoting a tweet in which Nadal said “it’s better if you don’t know” how many injections he received during the tournament, Pinot wrote: “Today’s heroes…” along with two emojis – the the first a thinking face, the second a melting face.
The Groupama-FDJ rider did not elaborate on his remarks but then re-tweeted the comments of investigative journalist Clémence Lacour, which, without necessarily being an endorsement, are perhaps illustrative of his position.
“His [Pinot’s] tweet speaks ironically of the ‘heroes of today'”, writes Lacour. “Those heroes who choose performance at the expense of their bodies and at the cost of physical problems so serious that they have to put them to sleep. Is this the model we want for ourselves and our children?
Pinot and his team are members of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), which adheres to voluntary regulations beyond the UCI anti-doping regulations.
He has spoken of ethical concerns in the past, including last year when he revealed he received an out-of-competition corticosteroid injection to treat a long-standing back injury, explaining his discomfort with the treatment and his belief that cycling was operating at “two speeds”, since riders can “abuse” Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) regulations to use these substances in competition.
Today’s heroes… 🤔 https://t.co/KCYQ1mZjUrJune 5, 2022
Martin: If you’re sick or injured, you don’t compete
Another French runner followed the question on Tuesday, with Guillaume Martin speaking at length in a French newspaper The Team (opens in a new tab).
“What Nadal did would have been impossible in cycling, and I find that normal,” the Cofidis rider said, referring to the UCI’s needle-free policy introduced in 2011.
“If you’re sick or injured, you don’t run, you don’t compete, that makes sense to me, for a number of reasons. First, for the health of athletes. In the long run, I’m not sure it will do Nadal’s ankle any good. Moreover, drugs – and especially injections – do not only have a healing effect; they can certainly have performance effects or be tweaked to improve performance, so it seems to me that’s really borderline.
Martin, who is also a philosopher and published author, spoke of a cultural difference between cycling and other sports, referring to the Festina affair and cycling’s generally checkered history when it comes to doping.
“If a cyclist does the same thing, it’s already forbidden, but even if it weren’t, everyone would pile up, branding him as doped because there is such cultural baggage, such clichés attached to cycling,” he said.
“Meanwhile, people are praising Nadal for being able to go deep in pain. I believe [footballer] Zlatan Ibrahimovic also spoke about knee injections. They come across as heroes because they sink into pain, but in fact they use substances to sink into pain, and again, that’s borderline. The winner of cycling, including the Tour, even if it is not, is systematically accused of doping.
According to Martin, in the absence of an effective overarching ethical framework, the onus is on the individual to decide what they are comfortable with.
“The UCI regulations are, for me, a minimum. There are plenty of things that are allowed but that I forbid myself. It’s the whole question of gray areas, of the twist of certain drugs normally used to treat, for example, cancers or multiple sclerosis. I don’t see myself taking this stuff to be a better cyclist, yet it’s allowed, ”he argued.
“The anti-doping agencies are always late, so I don’t think we should wait for them to take a position before taking our own positions. It is up to everyone to construct their own code of ethics. I accept that sometimes my results are worse because of this code, but nevertheless I stay true to myself and I’m happy with it.