Stéphane Heulot, a former French professional cyclist, considers “normal” and “deserved” to doubt the performance of Tadej Pogacar and certain riders in the Tour de France peloton.
Stéphane Heulot is one of the skeptics about the performance of Tadej Pogacar, current leader of the general classification of the Tour de France. The former wearer of the yellow jersey on the Grande Boucle in 1996 had already expressed his disgust after the Slovenian’s demonstration during the time trial on the eve of the arrival of the 2020 edition where he had won the test. But he refuses to repeat his words which have earned him “death threats” after having “spoken of certain people a few years earlier”, as he confides to the Parisian. He insists anyway: “yes, there are still plenty of unhealthy people on the Tour. And you shouldn’t have a short memory.”
“People have seriously faulted, were ejected from the Tour before coming back”
He does not quote them but last September he was choked on seeing Mauro Gianetti as manager of Pogacar’s UAE team. He knows the latter well since he had been his teammate at the Française des Jeux in 1998, the year in which the Swiss remained in a coma three days after consuming PFC (a substance used on an experimental basis in hospitals, close to EPO). Gianetti then became manager of the Saunier-Duval formation, excluded from the Tour in 2008 after the positive control of the Italian Riccardo Ricco.
“People have seriously faulted and over time, he plague. They were thrown like filths from the Tour before coming back. So please, the big sentences on redemption and renewal, avoid to bring them out to me. I was already dealt a blow after the Festina affair in 1998. “
“No one has an interest in the system blowing up”
For the 50-year-old former rider, at the head of a cycling training center near Rennes, the suspicion about the performance of the Slovenian is quite legitimate. “But it’s perfectly normal to doubt Pogacar and the others, he continues. Before him, some wanted to believe in Lance Armstrong or Bjarne Riis. The suspicion is general and it is deserved. All team bosses must be paranoid and say to yourself, ‘What is it that proves to me that so-and-so is clean?’ I am logically challenged when I see Pogacar’s performances. We are all influenced by the past. “
For him, the defense of the current wearer of the yellow jersey – who recalls never having tested positive – is not a guarantee of probity. “How many positive tests has a certain American runner undergone (Lance Armstrong, editor’s note) in the 2000s? Only one, who was suffocated. And guys like Alejandro Valverde or Ivan Basso, caught up in cases following police investigations ? None. So the blow of negative controls to justify everything … Let us add that there are people in very high places who will say that at the moment all is well, because they need, to be re-elected, the votes of small countries of East which count as much as those of the traditional countries of bicycle. Nobody has interest in the system exploding. It is nevertheless stupendous that we do not ask questions. to be called Pogacar to be suspected of cheating. “