Newly retired rider, Jean-Christophe Peraud believes that cycling is cleaner than it was when he began racing professionally. Peraud, who hung up his racing wheels after the Vuelta a Espana in August, told the French newspaper Le Parisien that he was less affected by doping in the latter part of his career, stating, "I beat guys who cheated."
"Unfortunately, yes, and this is my first sorrow," he told Le Parisien when asked if he had questioned certain performances on the road. "Two or three times a year, some things shocked me. There, one thinks, that we had already lost. Early in my career, it gave me a lot to reflect on, but that was not the case in the end. I have been on the bike for 20 years and at a very good level; I almost got to the top. I beat guys who cheated, so it was a little less affected by it."
Peraud started his career as a mountain biker, winning three European titles and a world championship in the discipline. He claimed silver in the cross-country event at the 2008 Olympic Games before committing himself to road racing at the age of 31. He finished ninth in his debut Tour de France in 2011 and went on to finish second in 2014, which was won by Vincenzo Nibali.
"I wanted to know if, sportingly, we could succeed in this [road] discipline without cheating," Peraud said of his switch to the road. "I wanted to know at what level I found myself in relation to the peloton, to see how the mountain bike rider compared on the road. Today, the mountain bike has gained acclaim but when I started, it was a road sub-discipline and we mountain bikers, we lived it a little badly. That was my quest, and I have completed it."
Despite his stance now, Peraud hasn't been free of his own issues with the anti-doping authorities. In 1997, he registered a haematocrit level of over 50 per cent but avoided suspension as the test was done for research purposes. Tests for EPO were still in their infancy, and the UCI introduced the 50 per cent haematocrit level regulation that season. Peraud has always stated his innocence, and in 2014 he claimed he almost quit cycling following the revelations.
"At the time, we had begun to search for EPO. There was a blood test for the whole peloton. I was over 50 per cent, and I was wrongly accused," he said. "It was the beginnings of the detection of EPO, and it gave rise to uncertainties. I'm all for the fight against doping, but I prefer to see cheaters race than seeing the innocent accused."