Doping concern surrounds child prodigy: “Pogacarmstrong” arouses dark tour doubts

Doping concern surrounds child prodigy
“Pogacarmstrong” arouses dark tour doubts

Never in cycling history has a 22-year-old been as strong as Tadej Pogacar. “He looks like an alien,” it says in the peloton. However, this not only triggers cheers, but also doubts. However, they are homemade: The environment of the Slovenian child prodigy is bursting with doping experience.

After two days at an extraterrestrial pace, Tadej Pogacar took it easy on earth. The long-awaited rest day comfort with sleeping in, massages and a short excursion was only followed in the late afternoon by the unpleasant part in the form of a small press round. Unusual enough for the taciturn front runner of the Tour de France, who like his buttoned-up UAE team is reluctant to answer annoying questions. Above all, how in the world are such achievements possible for a 22-year-old?

“In the end, you just need tough legs,” said the Slovenian high-flyer after he once again overtook the few remaining rivals in Tignes on Sunday and extended the overall lead. But because Pogacar looked at his demonstrations of power in the Alps as if he had at least four legs, and thus reminded of the dark dominators of the tour, the nickname “Pogacarmstrong” immediately made the rounds.

“He’s just driving a different race here. We have to make sure that we drive our own,” said Richard Carapaz, Ecuadorian fifth overall and still the most promising competitor for Pogacar, whose successful title defense no one sincerely doubts. “The tour is over,” said Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx.

Pogacar just keeps getting stronger

When Pogacar broke in on the tour like a force of nature last year and grabbed the yellow jersey on the penultimate day, the experts were also impressed. But what is even more remarkable is that while other very young tour winners such as Jan Ullrich (23/1997) or Egan Bernal (22/2019) suffered more or less major setbacks in the following year, the development just didn’t go wildly upwards, Pogacar is still clear got stronger – on the mountain, but especially in the flat time trial, which he won on the tour the previous week.

“Pogacar looks like an alien. He’s at the center of the debates because he drives at such an extraordinary level,” said AG2R sporting director Julien Jurdie, whose protégé Ben O’Connor won on Sunday in Tignes as an outsider. The French are taken aback by the brutally strong demeanor of the two “Arab” teams UAE Emirates and Bahrain Victorious (won two difficult stages): “I wonder if such dominance is possible and I have no answer. I understand that doubts arise . “

Team with previous doping experience

Doubts about the sincerity of Pogacar’s achievements are, however, homemade, as his environment in the UAE team is mainly occupied by people of medium repute at best. Team boss Mauro Gianetti, as manager of the Saunier-Duval team led by archdoper Ricardo Ricco, was involved in one of the biggest scandals of the Tour de France in 2008. Tour boss Christian Prudhomme called the Swiss a “man with a bad reputation”.

Pogacar’s sports director and compatriot Andrej Hauptman was excluded from the tour in 2000 because of suspicious blood tests. And Pogacar’s doctor and training planner Inigo San Millan is known for his more experimental methods, means, and approaches.

Pogacar will hardly be able to dispel these doubts in the long term, especially not with another tour victory, perhaps most likely with maximum transparency. Since the unscrupulous machinations around the turn of the millennium, the presumption of innocence only applies to a very limited extent in cycling.