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Guillaume Martin joins growing calls to ban ketones for reasons of fairness in the peloton

Guillaume Martin (Cofidis)
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Guillaume Martin has joined fellow French rider Romain Bardet’s call to ban the use of ketones, suggesting the use of the dietary supplement and energy source by some riders and teams is creating unfairness in the peloton.

Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Demare and Bardet have all recently raised questions about the use of ketones and highlighted the difference in results they could lead to. A number of leading teams, including Jumbo-Visma and Trek-Segafredo have admitted to using ketones, with a number of others said to have ordered them in quantity for major objectives such as the Tour de France. 

The use of ketone supplements is prohibited by teams that are part of the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC) association that defends clean cycling due to concerns about long-term health consequences. However research, most recently by Peter Hespel at the University of Leuven, has suggested ketones have potentially sizeable performance-enhancing properties. Hespel is the scientific director of the Bakala Academy, where Deceuninck-QuickStep riders are tested and he is a consultant for the team.

Ketones are not banned by the UCI or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) but in September the UCI has requested for an additional scientific study to be done and while waiting the results asked riders to “refrain from using this substance.” 

Speaking to Cyclism’Actu as he presented his second book on life in the professional peloton, Martin said ketones should be banned. 

"I don't think there is, and hope that there isn’t heavy doping in cycling right now, but the big question is more about these gray areas because ketones aren’t banned,” he said. 

“The question is: should they be? Personally, I don’t take them and my team is part of the MPCC which prohibits their use. Even before the MPCC took their stance, I had forbidden myself to take them. So I’m obviously in favor of banning them for reasons of fairness.

“It's up to the International Cycling Union to take a position on them. I don't have all the evidence or all the scientific data on the effectiveness or real danger of ketones.”

This season Martin was the first French rider to finish two Grand Tours in the top ten since Laurent Jalabert and Richard Virenque in 1995. He fought to eighth at the Tour de France and then was ninth at the Vuelta a España. He has not failed to finish a race since 2018.     

An intellectual and acute observer of life in the peloton, Martin admits that there is often talk about a two-speed peloton, between riders who race clean and those who dip into the grey zone of supplements or even the use of doping products. However, he tries to avoid fixating on what his rivals may be doing and believes in the presumption of innocence.       

“These questions of doping or two-speed cycling come up often in conversations,” he told Cyclism’Actu. 

“But I refuse to think about it. There is nothing I can do about it and so I have nothing that allows me to say anything about it. Personally, I just want to focus on my job and what I’m doing.

“There is one important thing in life, and that is the presumption of innocence. I assume that until nothing is proven about someone, I am not going to judge or attack them. I focus on myself, I don’t pass judgment, and I try to do my best.”

Martin sparked a stir by recently telling the Ouest-France newspaper that “nothing prevents me from reaching the level of Pogačar”, suggesting he had beaten the two-time Tour de France winner in a number of races. 

He explained his thought was more nuanced than a single sentence and actually backed by results.  

“That's the magic of Twitter and the press,” Martin said.  

“We had a discussion in a certain context and then a sentence was taken out of it. I think people know that I have more nuanced positions than that. 

“I’m well aware that Pogačar is stronger than me most of the time, if not all of the time. However, if we didn't have this hope of beating them, I think we would stop working. I keep the hope of progressing and getting closer to them. As I said earlier, cycling is not only played by watts.

“What I was trying to say is that there’s not a world of difference between Pogačar and I. It is true that if you look at it through the televisual prism, you can have the impression that there is a world of difference. But if you look at the results of most of the races, I didn't finish well down on Pogačar. 

“I was referring to the post-Covid period of 2020. This year, I never found those legs but in 2020, at the Critérium du Dauphiné and at the start of the Tour de France, I had a very good level and I was close to these riders. When I arrived at Orcières Merlette at the Tour, I was able to attack 500-600 meters from the top and finish third just behind Roglič and Pogačar. That was all behind my answer, but it doesn’t fit in a Twitter message…”

Martin will soon head to Spain for a Cofidis training camp, where the French team will define his 2022 goals. The Tour de France is again likely to be central to his season, with another good overall performance a likely goal.  

Elia Viviani and Christopher Laporte have moved on from Cofidis for 2022 but Ion Izagirre will help with leadership responsibilities in stage races.   

“The way the Grand Tours went in 2021 made me understand that my nature is more suited to aiming for a good overall classification,” Martin said. 

When I'm in a breakaway, I can't seem to have that day of grace that would allow me to raise my level. My strength is being consistent and to always be present in almost all the races I ride, so I think the overall classifications will be important in 2022.

“My goal will be to continue my progression. The Tour will still be the most important moment of the year. Next year, there will be no Olympics, the World Championships (in Australia) will not be on a course that suits me, so all that will allow me to be more focused on my goals.” 

Martin’s new book is called ‘La société du peloton’ and looks at the parallels between life in the bunch and general society.   

“I draw on my personal experience as a professional cyclist, on what I experience and what I see in the peloton to develop a philosophical reflection on society in general,” he explained. 

“For example in cycling, there are rivalries between teams, as there can be in society between companies. Within the peloton, there is a hierarchy. Even within a team, there are leaders and there are teammates, a bit like in a business. The parallels are therefore quite easy to make.” 

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