Yoann Offredo has spoken of his frustration at serving a twelve-month suspension for whereabouts violations while a number of riders who confessed to blood doping as part of USADA’s Lance Armstrong investigation received only six-month bans.
Offredo was handed the ban by the French Cycling Federation last February after he was late in updating his whereabouts for the purpose of out of competition testing on three separate occasions in the space of 18 months. The 26-year-old’s ban expires on January 31 and he is set to return to competition with FDJ at the Tour of Qatar.
“Initially, I refused to believe it. I said, damn, there are guys who have doped and who haven’t been caught at all, and it was like that again with the Armstrong case, where guys got six months even though they were at the heart of an organised doping programme!” Offredo told L’Équipe. “Fortunately, I didn’t know that in the month of March, otherwise I would really have been angry.”
Offredo admitted that he had avoided watching the spring Classics and Tour de France on television during his suspension, and he said that he missed many other minor details beyond the racing itself.
“Having a routine, having pointless meetings that last two hours, I missed all of that,” Offredo said. “Sometimes, at the end of a stage, you would say to yourself: ‘Why do the journalists piss me off by asking these questions?’ But now, it’s the contrary, I want people to ask how it went, why I missed the split, why I attacked there. It’s like eating overcooked pasta in the hotel. Well, ok, maybe I don’t miss that so much…”
Offredo’s sole appearance at a race during his suspension was at the French championships in June, but he felt removed from the celebrations surrounding the achievements of his FDJ’s Nacer Bouhanni and Arnaud Démare, who took first and second. “I went home and I said, ‘I’m not going to races anymore, I’m not going with the team again while I’m suspended.’ It was the hardest moment of the year,” Offredo said.
The Frenchman also hinted that he had not been overwhelmed by messages of support from his FDJ teammates during the year, although he paid tribute to the efforts of trainer Fred Grappe and manager Marc Madiot to remain in touch.
“I’m not going to give any names, but yes, there are people, notably from the team, who weren’t there,” he said. “They didn’t need to call me every day, but give me a call once during the year… Just once, to say: ‘How is it going? What are you doing? That’s all. I would have loved it and I would have found it normal if they had done that.
“There were others who were more present that I imagined. Marc [Madiot] a bit, and especially Fred Grappe. He really didn’t want to leave me alone, he could feel that I was still fragile, and that if I was abandoned to my own devices, it was finished.”
In preparation for his return, Offredo has already reconnoitred the final 150km of Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders in the company of David Boucher, Arnaud Démare and Mickaël Delage. “I tried to show them that I hadn’t come back naively without training,” he said. “Mentally, I’m stronger.”