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French riders Thibaut Pinot and Guillaume Martin have both questioned Rafael Nadal for his use of cortisone injections at the French Open, stating the amount of anaesthetic the tennis player needed is simply prohibited in cycling.
Rafa Nadal won the French Open for the 14th time at Roland Garros on Sunday, but afterwards he stated: "I played without feeling in my foot. I played with an injection in the nerve, and the foot was asleep, that's why I was able to play."
The Spaniard received several cortisone injections during the tournament to ensure he kept a lingering foot injury as pain-free as possible. Nadal has suffered from Mueller-Weiss syndrome in his left foot for the past 15 years, a rare degenerative condition affecting the bones in his foot.
When asked how many injections he needed to get through the two-week tournament, Nadal answered coyly.
"It's better that you don't know," he said.
Thibaut Pinot didn't seem too impressed by Nadal's admission, though, commenting: "Today's heroes..." on Twitter. The Groupama-FDJ rider has suffered with lingering back issues due to an injury he sustained at the 2020 Tour de France, and, when French tennis player Jonathan Eysseric replied to Pinot arguing his tweet was one of "sadness", Pinot elaborated.
“Why?" Pinot replied. "Because I have my convictions, a way of seeing sport and sports performance differently than yours, maybe? My tweet (three words) which is causing so much reaction fell on Nadal but it could have been a golfer, horse rider, handballer, basketball player, fencer, rugby player, weightlifter, skier, footballer, surfer, cyclist, etc…
“In no case his career or his talent are called into question here. We see too many athletes using this kind of practice in recent weeks. I almost lost two of surely the most beautiful years of my career to take care of my back, it was difficult but I am proud of it today.
“The methods [used by Nadal] are simply prohibited in my sport, which is unfortunately so decried. Here is a little more precision on the sadness of my tweet.”
Pinot's compatriot, Guillaume Martin, also questioned the ethics behind Nadal receiving multiple cortisone injections. Speaking to L'Equipe, Martin suggests the lengths Nadal has gone to to keep playing simply wouldn't be possible in cycling.
"What Nadal has done would be impossible in cycling," Martin said. “And I think that's normal. If someone is sick or injured, they don't compete - that seems like common sense to me. First and foremost for the health of the athletes. I'm not sure the long-term injections will be good for Nadal's foot.
“In addition, drugs and certainly injections not only have a curative effect, but they can certainly also have an effect on performance or can be used to improve performance. I think that's borderline.
"If a rider did the same - it's forbidden, but suppose it wasn't - everyone would accuse him of doping, while they praise Nadal precisely because he can suffer so much pain. The winner in the race, and especially that of the Tour, is systematically accused of doping, even if there is no reason for it at all.”
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