After testing positive for EPO at the French time trial championships in June 2019, Marion Sicot repeatedly denied doping. In a French television interview on Sunday night, however, the 27-year-old will come clean.
"I tried to protect myself by lying...but once you tell the truth, you are much better, you manage to sleep better and get up in the morning by being a little more proud of what you have done," Sicot says, in an excerpt of the interview published in L'Équipe (opens in new tab).
Sicot previously refused to admit to doping after her B sample also returned a positive for EPO, then blaming it on her menstrual cycle.
The former Doltcini - Van Eyck rider reveals in May 2019 she simply typed 'EPO purchase' into Google and ordered 10 bottles from a Chinese website. Sicot says she had given the matter a lot of thought before deciding to dope for the first time on June 24, her 27th birthday.
Sicot says at the time she was feeling a lot of pressure from sports director Mark Bracke to perform. Not only did he ask her at the end of the 2018 season to sell two bikes for €1,250 each in order for her to get her contract renewed and stay at the team, but she claims he also accused her of being "too fat", making her take pictures in her underwear from the front and back every Monday morning. Sicot says she had to do to this "to be able to participate in the races. He told me that he erases them afterwards, but, that, I cannot know."
"I was disgusted," Sicot continued. "I was disgusted with the high-level world of cycling. I was reaching saturation with it, I was reaching the end."
Her solution was to try and improve her performances in order to obtain some respite from the DS.
"[I thought] if I managed to obtain a performance the sports director would give me as much importance as the other girls and would leave me alone," Sicot says.
The Frenchwoman adds she believes in light of the circumstances of what led her to dope she should receive a reduced sanction.
“I deserve to have a sanction but I would like to have a lighter sentence due to the circumstances with my sports director. It wasn't the real Marion who did that," Sicot says.
In a statement provided to French television, Bracke said: "There was no secret contract. Marion Sicot literally came to plead to be on the team.
"I asked several times for photos of Marion to assess her physical condition. I don't think I've ever used the word bikini.
"In the past this was a common practice of a sports director. I hope the material you use is true."
Last week the UCI opened two investigations into sexual assault at Doltcini-Van Eyck, with two of the team's former riders coming forward with claims against a soigneur.
The two riders in question are 24-year-old American Sara Youmans and 21-year-old Canadian Maggie Coles-Lyster, with the latter saying she told her team manager at the time what had happened. The cases are now being handled by the UCI’s ethics committee.
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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