How did Botox help Pauline Ferrand-Prévot recover from injury in time for the Olympics?

The French multi-discipline world champion used injections of botulinum toxin to treat problems with her sciatic nerve in her hip

France’s Pauline Ferrand-Prévot is racing the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday thanks to Botox injections. The 2014 world champion, who recently blasted Lizzie Armitstead for three missed anti-doping controls, suffered from hip pain.

Botox or botulinum toxin is used to rid patients of wrinkles, but also works to treat muscle spasms. She had two injections in June and another two before leaving for Rio de Janeiro.

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“I have no more pain,” Ferrand-Prévot told L’Equipe. “With an injection, you can not ride for three days, you can not race for ten days. [Botox] is not prohibited and the next day, you can train.”

She had tried physiotherapy and osteopathy, changing her bike position and a cortisone injection.

“She had a big contraction of the piriformis muscle [between the hip and the thigh],” said France’s team doctor, Jacky Maillot. “It would pinch the sciatic nerve, causing the pain.”

“Jacky Maillot told me one of his colleagues is a specialist with this problem,” added Ferrand-Prévot. “After injection of botulinum toxin, I felt it was much better.”

Ferrand-Prévot won the world championships three times: on the road in 2014 and in 2015, in cyclo-cross and mountain bike. She will compete in the Olympic road race Sunday and in the mountain bike race on August 20.

She made headlines this week when she criticised British Cycling’s legal support of Lizzie Armitstead, who missed three out-of-competition anti-doping tests in the last 12 months and faced a four-year ban.

Armitstead and British Cycling took the case against the UKAD to sports high court and won, showing successfully the first missed test was due to the tester’s mistake.

“I said the decision was shameful,” said Ferrand-Prévot told AFP news agency. “I never said she took something or that she has doped.

“The rules have to be the same for everyone. When there are three ‘no-shows’ it’s because there’s a problem. In the peloton everyone agrees with me, but no-one is saying anything.”

“If that happened to me I’d be told: ‘Pauline, you’re not going to the Games’,” she said. “The rules have to be respected, otherwise it’s a free for all.”