The Christmas injections in question

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Paris (AFP) – Revealing that he used daily injections of anesthetic product at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal opened the debate on this legal medical practice, between ethics, anti-doping regulations and the differences with other sports.

What does the regulation say?

“We blocked (the pain) by injecting anesthetic before each game,” said Rafael Nadal, who has Müller-Weiss syndrome in his left foot.

Sleeping products are not prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code.

Another way to deal with pain, the use of corticosteroids is banned during the competition from January 1st.

“The use of anesthetics is a practice that has probably become more common this year, as it is all possible to limit pain locally,” Dr. François Lhuissier, president, told AFP. of the French Society of Exercise and Sport Medicine (SFMES). ).

However, an athlete could use corticosteroids in competition, possibly by injection, if he or she had a Therapeutic Use Authorization (AUT).

“No AUT commission would give an AUT for the reason of Christmas, sweeps Mr. Lhuissier. An AUT is when you have a health problem that will limit you in daily life, not just in sports, for example, the asthma or hypertension AUTs are not given to allow athletes to return to their sport, but to return to a normal level of health.

Rafael Nadal in the service against Alexander Zverev in the semifinals of Roland-Garros, June 3, 2022 Thomas SAMSON AFP

Other sports

“In football, the infiltrations are widespread,” Dr. Jean-Pierre de Mondenard, a sports doctor who maintains a blog (, told AFP from a general point of view. “But these are not treatments, you treat the result but not the athlete,” he warns.

In athletics, “these are not common practices, at least in France,” Dr. Antoine Bruneau, a doctor on the French federation’s French team, told AFP.

“Whether it’s the use of an anesthetic or the injection method, both are not common at the time of competition. It’s probably more common in championship team sports with matches every weekend.”

“It’s part of the therapeutic arsenal we have at our disposal. But putting a nerve to a lower limb to sleep would cause problems with balance, gesture control. There’s a difference between running and sliding tennis and the quality of tennis. necessary for a jump or an athletics race where all sensations are needed, I find it hardly possible in principle.

An ethical practice?

Only cycling, a sport commonly mocked by the issue of doping, has gone beyond the WADA by including in its sports regulations the prohibition of any injection in the context of a competition. Engaged with his team in the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), Thibaut Pinot rebuked Christmas on Twitter “today’s heroes …”, then developing on the ethics of high-level sport: “We see that too many athletes have used this type of practice in recent weeks. “

French cyclist Thibaut Pinot, during the Tour de France 2020, at the Planche des Belles Filles
French cyclist Thibaut Pinot, during the Tour de France 2020, at the Planche des Belles Filles Marco BERTORELLO POOL / AFP / Archives

“From an ethical point of view, all I’m interested in is whether it’s authorized or not,” said Mr. Luissier. if an athlete asked me to, as long as it was allowed, I would. “

For Mr. Bruneau, the new corticosteroid regulations “are a message to the world of sports about injections” and their symbolic needles.

A health risk for Christmas?

“Anesthetic injection will have no effect on your health,” said Mr Luissier.

“Pain is a natural alarm signal for the human body,” Bruneau recalls. I wonder if it is beneficial to anesthetize an athlete during a competition depriving of sensations … “

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