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Démare expresses concern at use of ketones in professional peloton

Arnaud Demare (Groupama - FDJ) racing at the Vuelta a España
Arnaud Demare (Groupama - FDJ) racing at the Vuelta a España (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Arnaud Démare has expressed concern that not everybody in the peloton is adhering to the same rules and restrictions on products such as ketones, noting that the intensity of racing had stepped up notably in the space of a year.

In an interview with Le Parisien, Démare declined to use the word "doping," but he highlighted that his Groupama-FDJ squad, together with the other members of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), were not using ketones.

“I wonder about the peloton, but I’m only saying what many people are seeing,” Démare said. “Not everyone has the same restrictions on certain products like ketones. I am part of a team that has made commitments, as have others. But the whole peloton is not like us.”

Démare enjoyed a fine 2020 campaign, winning 14 races, including four stages at the Giro d’Italia. Although he racked up nine wins in 2021, including victory at Paris-Tours in October, he struggled at times during the season, most notably when he was eliminated from the Tour de France for finishing outside the time limit on stage 9.

“Many riders feel the same way as I do,” Démare said. “Coming up against someone stronger than you is always part of the game. But this season, from Paris-Nice onwards, I found that we were riding at a really fast pace. In just one year, things really accelerated.”

The use of ketone ester supplements was prohibited on MPCC teams after a study at the University of Leuven suggested potentially sizeable performance-enhancing properties, while concerns regarding their possible long-term impact on health were later raised by team doctors.

The MPCC’s rules also prohibit the use of cortisone in competition, with member teams undergoing additional, voluntary cortisol testing ahead of Grand Tours. Groupama-FDJ is one of 10 WorldTour teams who are currently members of the MPCC, together with Cofidis, Qhubeka NextHash, Team DSM, Lotto Soudal, Bora-Hansgrohe, AG2R Citroën, EF Education-Nippo, Israel Start-Up Nation and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux.

Of the 43 Grand Tours held since the movement's inception in the summer of 2007, only five have been won by riders who were competing for MPCC teams at the time, and thus subject to the additional, voluntary rules. Tom Dumoulin's 2017 Giro d'Italia victory in Team Sunweb colours was the most recent example.

On the eve of the 2021 season, Démare’s teammate Thibaut Pinot also raised concerns about the prevalence of therapeutic use exemptions and ketones in the professional peloton, saying, “cycling still operates at two speeds.” 

In that interview with L’Équipe in February, Pinot added: “A guy who has a TUE has no business being on a bike. They’re not fit for competition. I don’t understand that people race bikes on cortisone.” 

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