Yoann Offredo has said that his one-year suspension for three violations of the whereabouts system was too severe, although the FDJ-BigMat rider has accepted that it was not unjust to sanction him for the offence.
Offredo missed three anti-doping controls within an eighteen-month period and was handed a one-year ban by the French Cycling Federation in February. The riders' association CPA has pleaded his cause, as one of the missed tests was his team management's fault, but the suspension still took effect.
“The decision isn’t especially unfair because there are rules, for everybody. I’ve never called the whereabouts system into question, but only the proportionality of the sanction,” Offredo told L’Équipe. “I find it hard to accept being sanctioned to the same extent as a rider who doped. I find it hard to understand why the commission didn’t take my good faith into consideration, or my exemplary biological passport.”
Offredo has until April 5 to decide if he wishes to appeal the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but in any case, the Frenchman will miss out on the spring classics, where he had been touted to continue his progress from the past two seasons. He admitted that he avoided watching Saturday’s Milan-San Remo, a race which he ignited twelve months ago with an attack on the descent of the Cipressa, en route to a 7th place finish.
“It’s hard because I had been thinking about it for a year. Since the last Milan-San Remo, I thought of this year’s one, and every day in training, I had Milan and the Poggio in the back of mind,” he said. “I’m not saying that I would have won or that I would have been in the top ten, but in any case, I had it in my head. I was only training for that.
“It’s a strange feeling, not one of injustice but more of frustration, of saying, ‘damn, I’d love to have been there’ or ‘I’d have done that’… So I preferred not to watch it. But I couldn’t help keeping an eye on the internet from time to time.”
Offredo said that he had contemplated quitting cycling in the days that followed the announcement of his suspension, and discussed the matter with FDJ-BigMat manager Marc Madiot and coach Fred Grappe.
“But other people’s truth is not your own, so it was more of a dialogue with my subconscious, which on one side told me ‘stop’ and the other said, ‘keep going, this is what you’re made for.’ But for four or five days, I told myself I was going to quit.”
That internal debate negotiated, Offredo has since returned to the saddle. “I did two hours the other day, but at an average of 39kph. I need this feeling of going beyond myself, of coming back tired, of having sore legs and feeling hungry in the evening… I need it, I was missing it.”