"Too much suspicion"
The five time winner of the Tour had not expressed himself since the
Festina affair. He tells of his annoyance by the multiple attacks levied
against the legend of the Tour, of which he is a part.
by Philippe Brunel, special envoy of l'Équipe at Futuroscope
Since the Festina affair you have stayed on the sideline of the
polemics, but knowing you, one feels certain that all the stories
about drug use must irritate you.
Last year I was disappointed, bitter, very shocked by what I heard,
by what we discovered upon the arrest of Willy Voet. All that
scientific arsenal. But I didn't think it was useful for me to add to
it. At the beginning I understood the necessity of debating the
issue, later I found it unfortunate that things got to the point of
taking it out on the Tour, this Tour that made me live and to which I
gave a little bit of my life as well. This winter there was the
examination of Daniel Baal, then the suspicion migrated to to
Jean-Marie Leblanc, who was also questioned. Even to Charly Mottet!
Because for four days he was the team director of l'équipe de
France. All interrogated like common drug traffickers. It is they
who battle against doping and it is they who are wronged! I am
revolted because the primary wrong doer is the state, the minister of
Sports who has not done enough to regulate this problem.
Have you read the books of Mentheour, of Willy Voet?
I was too disgusted.
If only to keep informed?
I will read them later. For now, I haven't had the desire.
In discussing the integrity of the Tour, the press has called
the legend into question, as if in the past one has admired riders who
did not merit to be admired. You were not affected by that?
Of course I am still affected by it. One would have the
impression, in reading the commentaries, that all cyclists are doped.
Hinault like Anquetil, Merckx, or Indurain! The newspapers have made
it seem that all those who won the Tour could not have won it on clear
water. That's stupid, but what do you think I should say to that? I
have my own good conscience.
That legend which vacillates, you don't wish to defend it?
The best response is the public who supports it each day. The
legend is there with them, on the roadside, on the side of those who
continually thank me for still believing in it. The more one strikes
at the Tour, the more people there are. And read what they are
writing, on the banners, you will see that they are fed up with all
You remain unsatisfied?
When I went on the road to Puy de Fou, I thought that some rider
would make a mistake, I knew that the riders had their future in their
hands, and I am happy to see that they understood that. That didn't
prevent a good hundred journalists to come in search of a scandal,
journalists who punctuate their articles with suspicions, who feed the
polemic but, not finding a story, they added in suspicion, they
poisoned the Tour, to the point that in eight days, one will ask again
if Armstrong deserved to win.
That is what you could not tolerate?
It makes me angry because it implies that someone who has had
cancer cannot win the Tour. That is ridiculous. When I was informed
that he was ill, in the manner in which it was presented at the time,
I thought he would not be able to pull through, after a short while he
would be three feet underground. Then I saw him come back, thinner,
head shaved, covered by a hat, eyes narrowed but alive. The cancer
had uncovered his will to live, and to win, it is what gives him his
force, plus the fact that he had lost ten kilograms of fat tissue
which he never regained. Then he reconstructed himself via sports,
like Lemond after his hunting accident, starting by winning the Tour
du Luxembourg, finishing fourth in the Vuelta, the World Championship,
without the least suspicion that he was using drugs.
Which means that perhaps it is the Tour which is targeted and
Perhaps, yes, that some pressure group seeks to demolish the Tour,
in which case, it's not ready to be demolished. But the worst is that
the ministry takes a turn by feeding the suspicion, with Madame
Buffet, who asks the UCI for the results of the blood checks,
suggesting that the UCI has hidden the results or refuses to be open
when over the past few months, the team directors, the sponsors, and
the riders have done everything they could to create a healthy
situation. Instead of of taking it out on the Tour, she would do
better to treat all sports equally.
Armstrong has let it be understood that he would take legal
action against Le Monde pour defamation.
If Le Monde was wrong, Armstrong is right to take legal action. I
hope he takes them for a large sum of money and creates jurisprudence
with the effect that the press be more careful in how it treats
The public did not believe Jean Marie Leblanc last year when he
stated that he was unaware about the extent of drug use. Were you
yourself surprised by what was going on in the Festina team?
Yes and no. If one thinks about it, one can understand the
position of Bruno Roussel, who had put measures into place to prevent
his riders from making even worse mistakes, that they were going to
other doctors without him being aware of it. On the other hand, what
strikes me as pure folie is the quantity of drugs which were found in
the car of Voet, which left me flabbergasted. I didn't know that what
they were taking was so dangerous. Today they are apparently at no
risk but in two years, in ten years?
Did Jean-Claude Killy and Jean-Marie Leblanc involve you last
year in their internal discussions, during which time some of the
press were calling for a halt to the Tour?
Not especially but I was around. At one difficult moment,
I took Jean-Marie aside below the podium just before the
protocol, he was having the blues, almost in tears, we
rubbed elbows, I told him, have to hang in, don't crack and
he didn't crack even if sometimes it was difficult. Today
if so many people are thanking him it's because they know
that in his place they would have lost it.
Were you shocked at proposals to halt the Tour?
Yes, shocked. It is easy to criticize when one has not
done any of the work. For one thing, that would not have
dealt with the drug problem and then how stop everything
when you think about all of the towns which were mobilized,
of all the people who had planned their vacations around
the Tour, one did not have the right to disappoint them.
Besides, the public, by its presence this year, has
given us its enthusiasm -- you've seen this joie de vivre?
Jalabert, champion of France, not only quit the
Tour, but he encouraged other riders to do likewise. Did
that surprise you?
He was not acting at the level of his rank, wearing the
jersey of the French national champion. He gave the impression of
exiting like a thief.
You yourself, in 1978, lead the strike at
Valence d'Agen (to protest the transfer days) while
wearing the French national champion jersey. At the
time you did not feel that you were harming the Tour
Not the same thing. I was going on strike, that's
true, but I stayed in the Tour. Besides we had no
other recourse. You knew Monsieur Levitan, who was
a boss, shall we say, authoritarian, fine. But I
am not saying that I did not make an error, that it
would not have been better to negotiate outside.
You don't have the impression that the young
riders are refusing to integrate themselves into
the chain of generations, that they no longer bother
to carry forward traditions, that they prefer to
work the system, saying 'after me, the flood'?
There is a little of that. Everything for me, the
others just have to fend for themselves.
When you left the Tour in 80, at Pau, through
the entrance of a grand hotel, you suffered from
that famous suspicion which weights on Armstrong.
I was too occupied by what I had [knee problem]. However, I
suffered through rumors after my victory in the Vuelta
in 83, when I had my knee problem. One journalist
had written: 'one supposes that it's the cortisone'.
After that, all the others repeated that. Instead,
it was purely a mechanical problem having to do
with my seat adjustment. Later, during the criteriums,
people would shout out: 'hey Mr. cortisone, how's
it going?' It has always been like that. And it's
regrettable. A champion who is ill is always suspect.
What is your position in the face of statements
by Moser, who made use this spring of blood transfusions?
Moser made use of autotransfusion. So he was playing
with his own blood. He did no more no less that the
Finnish athletes, Lasse Viren and the others. It
suffices to take some of ones own blood during the
spring when it is rich, hyperoxygenated, and to
reinject it when one is fatigued. Is that really
doping? Maybe not, except if the blood is placed
into a machine to reoxygenate it to the maximum.
Some doctors favor hormonal equiliberating.
Yes, perhaps, with one condition, that it be
strictly controlled. Hormones are given to bed
ridden elderly to regulate mineral levels so that
they do not degrade too much, so why not? It's
necessary to study the issue, to approach it with
One hears about longitudinal studies. Guimard
noted for us that, at Renault, you conducted
experiments at the CHU [University Hospital Center?] de Nantes,
twenty years ago. And that was a stabilizing factor in
I think so. One can adjust ones training program,
take a step up. One measures the thickness of the skin,
the thickness of the fat tissue. That was the beginning
of sports medicine. I don't know if we were in the
lead but we had the desire to make progress. The
project of Géard Rué was inspired by
that school, since he hoped to regroup his riders
in one region, near a CHU, like for football. It is
undoubtedly in that direction which things should go.
What do you think about the importance which
was given to Bassons abandoning?
Bassons was wrong to say that he was clean and
the others were dirty. He himself sleeps in a
hyperbaric chamber. Like for Moser. Doping starts
there, even if oxygen is completely natural.
He never stated that the others were dirty...
The manner in which it was presented meant that.
Then he arrives and the others are wondering what's
going on with him and tell him to get lost. When he
abandonned, he was made into a martyr, but he is no
One gets the impression that there isn't a
place in the Tour for a rider like Bassons.
He has a place like the others. No one put him
outside the door. But if instead of jockeying with
the press every evening he would have concentrated
on the race, perhaps he would still be there.
If the press took up his cause, it's because
before him no rider had ever adapted his philosophy...
OK, but did he have to trumpet it so loudly? It is
his professional conscience. He gave the impression of
not giving a damn about the others. He said that the
others were changed by money but if he did those
articles, it is certainly because he was paid for them?
And I read that he had multiplied by three fold his
criterium contracts. So he is not so clean as that.
Saiz was not welcome. He nevertheless was in the
Personally, I would not have accepted him. One does
not insult a country, one does not treat the organizers
of the Tour like slobs. There are some things which one
Same answer. The rules had been laid down, I was
in agreement with those rules, but everything
crumpled in face of the UCI.
- Bernard Hinault is born on the 14th of November, 1954 at Yffiniac (Cotes-d'Amor).
- He is maried to Martine and has two children, Alexandre and Michael.
- He begins competition in cadets at CO Briochin and signals his
first exploit in 1972 at Arras, in the French Junior championship,
where he leads the race from beginning to end.
- At the age of twenty, after a stage victory in the Route de
France, he states: "I will become pro with whoever takes me." That is
with Gitane-Campagnolo in 1975, which becomes Renault-Campagnolo then
- In 1975, he meets Cyrille Guimard, who is finishing his career in
racing to become sports director of Gitane. It is the beginning of a
long collaboration between the two Bretons.
- In 1977, he begins international competition and has immeidate
success: victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liè, in Gand-Wevelgem,
at the Grand Prix des Nations, and in the Dauphiné, notably.
The masses want to see him in the Tour but Guimard preserves him:
"When Hinault comes to the Tour, it will be to win.".
- In 1978, the Tour constitues the principal objective of who they
now call "le Blaireau [the Badger]". Before going there, he finishes
with success his first test, the Tour of Spain, and puts on the
Tricolor tunic at Sarrebourg. In Paris, he wins the first of his five
Tours (1978, 79, 81, 82, 85). [translator's note: during his career,
Hinault won 28 stages in the Tour de France]
- In 1980, he wins Liège-Bastogne-Liè despite a frozen
finger which he loses use of henceforth. He dreams of going on to a
double Giro-Tour, but he retires from the Grande Boucle (the Tour) at
Pau in the middle of the night due to knee pain. He gets revenge in
becoming world champion at Sallanches.
- Hinault, who dislikes cobblestone, suceeds in winning
Paris-Roubaix (1981) despite crashing 11 kilometers from the finish
because of a dog.
- In 1982, he achives the double Giro-Tour but his relationship with
Guimard starts to deteriorate.
[translator's note: Hinault repeated the double Giro-Tour accomplishment
- In 1983 he forfeits the Tour to have knee surgury. The following
year he is dominated by Laurent Fignon.
- In 1984 he joins Bernard Tapie at La Vie Claire, the team where he
will finish his career in 1986.
- The memorable image of his last victory in the Tour is the stage
at l'Alpe-d'Huez in 1985, where he crosses the finish line hand in
hand with Greg Lemond. The two men have taken a step: the Tour in 1985
for Hinault, who will assist the American to win the following year.
- Today, Bernard Hinault runs an agricultural business and works in
public relations for the Society of the Tour de France.
translated by Dennis Allard <firstname.lastname@example.org>,