Genevieve Jeanson |  "I can't keep quiet"

Genevieve Jeanson | “I can’t keep quiet”

More than 15 years after her positive doping test and subsequent confession, Geneviève Jeanson has “turned the page”.

Posted at 14:45

Simon Drouin

Simon Drouin
Press

Freed from her demons and reconciled with the sport -and her former rival Lyne Bessette-, the cyclist and trainer is committed to promoting the practice of sport in a healthy and safe way.

“It is my duty to share my story,” says Jeanson in a podcast that will be broadcast on Wednesday by the Sport’Aide organization, for which she becomes a spokesperson.

After a still-ongoing “rebuild” that requires “a lot of work and a lot of patience,” the 41-year-old now feels ready to speak out publicly, even if it means exposing herself to criticism.

He really started this process in 2020 by writing an open letter to the International Cycling Union (UCI) in which he lamented the too lenient sanction given to a Belgian team manager who was the perpetrator of multiple abuses.

“I got to a point where I didn’t care what people were going to think,” he explains. I had to share to help others. I’ve grown to the point where I can’t keep this to myself. If you can help, give ideas, open your mind to international federations, the IOC… […]

“I feel so good about myself now. It was broken for several years, but it was rebuilt. My life is rich. I love it and I’m fine. I am willing to accept all criticism. But for women and athletes in general, I cannot remain silent. »

In the podcast, recorded last summer at her husband’s gym where she is a head trainer, Jeanson is surrounded by Sylvain Croteau, general manager of Sport’Aide, and Louis Barbeau, executive director of the Quebec Sport Cycling Federation (FQSC). .

Questioning the role that the FQSC could have played with the young cyclist, Barbeau is at the origin of his meeting with Sport’Aide, in December. Challenged by his letter to the UCI, the FQSC CEO wrote to Jeanson, whom he has known since he was 11 years old.

“I wanted to hear from her and tell her that I found what she had done bravely and generously,” he said in an interview Monday. When it’s been more than 10 years since you’ve been in business, you don’t owe anyone anything. […] She didn’t kill anyone and she paid dearly for what she did. She was still suspended for 10 years. Few cyclists have had such severe penalties. »

Emphasizing that Jeanson “checks all the boxes in terms of sports violence”, Sylvain Croteau knew from “the first few minutes” of their meeting that he wanted to establish a collaboration.

“It was obvious, assured the CEO of Sport’Aide. It was clear to me that she was not there to restore her image. She wasn’t looking for that and she didn’t need it in life. It was really her intention to come and change something in sports practice, to contribute her grain of sand to the discussion and ensure that young people have a positive experience. »

“It was horrible”

For Jeanson it was the opposite from the age of 14 or 15, when his former coach André Aubut, whom he never names, began his abuse. First in a “minimal” way, until committing sexual assaults and rapes, as he testified during a webinar of the International Control Agency (ICA) against doping, in April.

“From 14 until I retired at 24, it was horrible,” Jeanson summed up on the podcast.


PHOTO BERNARD BRAULT, PRESS ARCHIVE

Genevieve Jeanson in 2001

Louis Barbeau recounts how the playful teenager backed off as soon as her coach approached. Like her after that flight to British Columbia for the 1998 Canadian Championships, where she laughed with the teammate sitting next to her.

“When his coach showed up at the airport, it was like all the lights just went out,” he said. I saw a change. He was getting very serious, dark. It is the Geneviève that we have been able to observe in the following years. »

The main interested party considers that the best way to avoid such danger is the education of the athlete and his environment.

“As an athlete, you want to please your coach. You like to win, you want to work hard. We are often super vulnerable and depend a bit on our performance. Our self-esteem is often linked to this. Our vision of a tough but healthy coach versus a tough but unhealthy coach is blurred. »

In a letter she addressed to “little Geneviève” as part of her collaboration with Sport’Aide, she invited herself to listen to her inner signals.

“If you have a knot in your stomach, a heavy heart or a confused mind, it’s not normal,” he wrote. Believe me, Geneviève, none of this is normal. I can tell you about it, because unfortunately I experienced it for the wrong reasons. That and that damn obsession with winning. »

Eventually, he began to think that what he was experiencing was “acceptable.” “They may tell you that I made bad decisions. If true. But what other solution did she have? I was alone. I was afraid that no one would believe me and I was also afraid of losing everything. I was so scared of everything and losing my coach that I even wished myself a bike accident! »

His biggest regret is that he will never know his true athletic worth. His “little broken heart” envies “Hugo Houle and the whole gang of Tour de France guys” who are lucky enough to have a positive experience.

“I would have liked to know what it is about, my talent, without all the doping panic, with a super positive coach who would not have traumatized me to that point. »

Inspired by two European professional cyclists whom she now advises, Jeanson returned to gravel bike racing this year.

“I may not have had those experiences when I was in my twenties, but that doesn’t mean that because I’m 40 now, I can’t change this connection that I have with competition, hard training and athletes. I still have the possibility to create new connections in my brain and have good memories. »

Jeanson does not hide that this return, which began slowly and without expectations, rekindled “the little flame” in her. He has found a coach with whom he is happy to discover the notion of collaboration.

“After a few races, it’s not that I’m tired of being behind because I’m not, but I’m really looking forward to being the host. It’s slowly coming back! »

On Sunday he was at the starting line of the 100b7, the friendly organized for the 10me times by Lyne Bessette in the Lac-Brome region. In July, the two old rivals had already met again at the Buckland sur Gravelle, a 130 km race held near the Massif du Sud. Bessette had finished third followed by… Jeanson.


PHOTO FROM GENEVIÈVE JEANSON’S INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT

Genevieve Jeanson and Lyne Bessette

Geneviève Jeanson is also the protagonist of a comic strip produced by Sport’Aide in which she invites a boy pushed by a coach obsessed with winning to rediscover the pleasure of cycling. The comic will be offered on Friday.


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