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Georges makes winning return after doping ban

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Sylvain Georges (AG2R La Mondiale) on the attack

Sylvain Georges (AG2R La Mondiale) on the attack (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Sylvain Georges off the front

Sylvain Georges off the front (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Sylvain Georges (AG2R La Mondiale), winner of stage 6 of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California

Sylvain Georges (AG2R La Mondiale), winner of stage 6 of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California (Image credit: AFP Photo)

After serving an 18-month ban following a positive test for the stimulant heptaminol, former Ag2r La Mondiale rider Sylvain Georges had been hoping to put that episode behind him and get his racing career back on track when he returned to competition last December. The Frenchman signed with the Team Pro Immo Nicolas Roux amateur team and took two wins in early March.

However, the recent revelation of a positive EPO test by Ag2r’s Lloyd Mondory’s has overshadowed Georges’ initial steps towards what he hopes will be a return to the pro peloton. He insists, however, the two cases and a further EPO positive for Steve Houanard when he was with Ag2r in 2012 should not be linked.

“The only think I’ve got in common with those two riders is that fact that we belonged to the same team,” Georges told Clermont-Ferrand-based newspaper La Montagne. “Having paid a heavy price for my negligence, I would like people to talk about my return and my results rather than the past.”

Georges’ positive test stemmed from his use of Ginkor Fort, an over-the-counter product used to treat haemorrhoids. Following his positive test, which led to Ag2r auto-suspending itself from the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné, Georges took his case the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled that it was “completely convinced that Mr Georges hadn’t intended to cheat or improve his sporting performance by taking Ginkor Fort. It is unfortunate that he has committed such a mistake, which has stained his antidoping record.”

Speaking earlier this week to French website Velo-Club, Georges responded to the recent linking of his case with those of Mondory and Houanard by stating: “I’ve fought to show that I’ve been nothing more than negligent, which has been recognised by the courts. I’ve been sanctioned on that basis and not as a cheat. It upsets me to see it regarded as a ‘doping case’… a division has to be made between those who are cheating deliberately and a positive test as a result of molecule that’s present in a product for sale in pharmacies.”

Having ridden 55,000km during his ban, set up a consultancy advising companies on communications and marketing strategy, and returned to competition in cyclo-cross events in December, results are starting to come on the road for the ex-pro who won the Big Bear stage at the 2012 Tour of California. Last weekend he won Châteauroux-Limoges just days after a victory in the Circuit des Communes de la Vallée du Bédat.

Although he is set to turn 31 on 1 May, he still believes he can return to the pro peloton. Indeed, he reveals he could have done this year having received the offer of a pro contract. But he turned it down in order to show gratitude to his team and its sponsor Nicolas Roux for their support.

“I wanted to return to the amateur ranks in 2015 in order to find my bearings again and prove that being out of competition for 18 months hasn’t stopped me from getting back to a very good level,” said Georges. “We’ll see what 2016 brings. I do have a thought of finding a good team and returning to the pro peloton in the back of my head.”

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).