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In the second part of an investigative report on the Radio-Canada television show Enquête on Thursday night, Geneviève Jeanson provided more extensive details about using EPO during her career (see a summary of Part 1 in “Jeanson admits to doping” ). Below is a summary of the interview.
Geneviève Jeanson affirmed Thursday that her first experience with EPO came in 1998 at the hands of Dr. Maurice Duquette, a Montreal orthopedic surgeon who initially injected her with the drug, supposedly to treat anemia.
After complaining of exhaustion, Jeanson was told she had two options: either take a season off to rejuvenate, or use EPO to boost her red-blood-cell count. She chose the latter, but with the help and encouragement of her father, Yves Jeanson and her coach, André Aubut.
Jeanson said both her father and Aubut accompanied her to the first visit with Duquette. For Aubut’s part, he wanted to know the advantages that EPO could provide. Jeanson’s father was present, she said, because he was concerned about his daughter’s health and recent weight loss. Jeanson said her father never asked about the possible dangers associated with the drug and thought the treatment was a one-time deal. It was not.
Although Jeanson didn’t provide an exact number, she said Dr. Duquette injected her roughly 20 times in her career. Jeanson said that she took EPO on and off during the season, but mostly during training. When race season – and the inevitable testing – came around, she was more cautious and sparing with its use.
Every fall, however, when the racing season came to a close, Jeanson wanted to find a way to get off EPO and stop biking. She spoke about wanting to change her life, saying she was tired of being controlled, but said she lacked the strength and resolve to challenge Aubut’s authority over her.
Ironically, Jeanson’s chance came in 2003, after a high hematocrit level kept her out of the world championships in Hamilton, Ontario. Facing a criminal indictment around the same time, Duquette admitted to having injected her with EPO.
Jeanson immediately called a press conference in response, but said she decided to lie, instead saying that she had never used, touched or even seen EPO at any point in her life.
Watching on television, Jeanson’s father realized she was lying about her one-time brush with EPO. He made her promise to him and her mother that she would never take the drug again, but agreed that he would not publicly challenge the veracity of her statement.
Eventually, Jeanson said, the lies started to catch up with her. She said the only way she knew how to survive was to keep lying. The hardest part, she said, was lying to the people who believed in her.
Back in Arizona with Aubut, Jeanson continued to train and continued to use EPO. Although she declined to specify where she got the drug, she said the drug could be easily found in gyms or on the Internet.
Aware of a spate of deaths that had resulted from some riders’ use of the drug, Jeanson said she began to worry that she might go to sleep and never wake up. While lying awake in bed at night, she could feel how slow her heart was pumping. During training, when her heart rate wouldn’t go up while doing hard intervals, Jeanson knew it was because her hematocrit level was too high.
She said the incident in Hamilton scared her so much that she just wanted to stop racing. Aubut, however, convinced her that leaving the sport would be tantamount to an admission of guilt. He asked her to hold on for one more year before quitting, using the large amounts of money she was making as an excuse to stick around.
Of course, Jeanson’s performance and endorsements were also in the best interest of Aubut, since they divided the money she earned. Jeanson estimated that over the course of her career, she earned roughly one million dollars, half of which went to her coach.
Despite a desire to quit as early as 2001, Jeanson stuck around, out of a reluctance to disappoint sponsors, her family and, of course, her coach.
During Thursday’s interview, Jeanson further addressed some of the suspicions surrounding their relationship. Aubut, she said, was more than just verbally abusive. The most serious incident came during a 160km-training ride in Arizona, when Jeanson stopped pedaling, too exhausted to continue. She said Aubut got so mad, he hauled her off into the desert and hit her. Jeanson said her face swelled up so much, she was unable to put her sunglasses back on.
Program producers at Radio-Canada say they have two witnesses who will attest to the fact that Jeanson sported a black eye after the alleged incident.
Both Jeanson and her family consider themselves a victim of Aubut’s manipulation and control. Her father says he never tried to push her and, if anything, both he and Jeanson’s mother tried to get her to take a step back from cycling. Her mother even wanted her to quit because she didn’t like seeing what Aubut and the sport was doing to her daughter.
Jeanson now says she is full of regret about the years she spent as a cyclist and concedes that despite Aubut’s role in her career, the decision to use EPO is still her responsibility. Nonetheless, she quickly added that she – and perhaps others – are victims of a system that encourages winning at all costs.