EF Education-Easy Post's Mark Padun has admitted that doping suspicions surrounding his performances have hurt him, and he has robustly defended himself against such accusations.
The Ukrainian surprised many when he won two mountain stages at the 2021 Critérium du Dauphiné, his first ever WorldTour victories and his first triumphs in almost two years when he won a stage and the overall title at the Adriatica Ionica Race.
Then racing for Bahrain-Victorious, he was slated to be part of the team's eight-man Tour de France squad only to be left out for reasons he has chosen not to reveal, and was then released from his contract a year early, paving the way for him to join EF Education-Easy Post.
In an interview with the French newspaper L'Equipe, the 25-year-old - who signed a three-year deal with his new employers - hit out at the public perception of him.
"Certain people have written things that are unfounded - ‘this guy is a cheat’, ‘he has come from nowhere’ - but all that is false," he said.
"Firstly, I’m not a cheat, and in addition, I’ve had results year after year.
"It’s very unpleasant, sickening. The joy has been taken out of my victories, even if, a few weeks after the Dauphiné, by speaking to people close to me, I told myself ‘OK, it’s part of the game’."
Padun turned professional with Bahrain in 2018 and has ridden a Grand Tour in each of his four years as a pro, scoring a third-placed finish at his debut Vuelta a España and then finishing second on a stage of the 2020 Giro d'Italia.
Those performances, along with a third-placed finish at the Vuelta a Burgos last August before the Vuelta, are evidence of sustained progression, he said.
"All these results prove that I haven’t come from nowhere," he said.
"For me, it’s difficult to get down to my race weight and maintain it. When I get there, I fly, but keeping that form is a big struggle.
"You have to push yourself hard, but not too much, which was my error. I put too much stress on my body, I fell ill, I was empty."
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