from doping to winning a world title, the rise of hammer thrower Quentin Bigot

3:00 PM, July 14, 2022

As his league opens the World Athletics Championships in Eugene on Friday, Quentin Bigot took the lead at the French team’s US base, Linfield College, south of Portland. With a status of vice world champion to defend, but especially with the wind at your back. The launcher has just climbed the slider beyond 80 meters (80.55) and has overcome a barrier as symbolic of the hammer as it is 10 seconds over 100 meters. He knows himself “in the game”, feels that “the title has never been so possible”. But do not forget the density of his discipline, which can quickly degrade him “in seventh place”.

With his 1.78 meters and his fivesome, Bigot comes forward in the category of small pitchers. The technique is fine, reliable and the benefits are quite easy to see as the physical tests improve. For example, in a discipline where the moves can be close to weightlifting, he lifts 110 pounds in the snatch in sets of four. His colleagues sometimes go up to 140, even 150 kilos, we see a path of progression there. His is in any case linear: “Since 2016, when there was no malfunction or Covid, I have gained 1 meter, even 1.5 meters, per season. »

He was 19 when he crossed the doping limit

If the 2019 Doha Worlds money had been spotted, especially amid collective discontent, fifth place in the Tokyo Olympics last summer inevitably went unnoticed. His performance of the day (79.39 meters) would have made him Olympic champion in the previous edition. “Even in the 1980s with the Soviets and the East Germans things generally didn’t go that far,” he remembers. A time and nationalities that conjure up dark ideas, veiled by doping. The subject was also his, a boy with false promises. In this case, by stanozolol, an anabolic steroid to which Ben Johnson had succumbed. He was 19 when he crossed the border, fearing that the London Games would be a mirage. Positive check in 2014. Four-year suspension halved: he had the intelligence to get around the usual denial, enroll in the collaboration and pedagogy.

After calling on Pierre-Jean Vazel, a hitherto high profile sprint coach (Ronald Pognon, Christine Arron), Quentin Bigot took up the lead of the competition as he weaved his redemption. The return to the French team was “a difficult stage”, shrouded in fear of sideways glances. ” But, he said, I was lucky enough to meet understanding people most of the time. » We posed the question of the banished-penitent’s reception by recalling a conversation with decathlete Kevin Mayer, late 2019, recalling his 1992 generation comrade: “I no longer have a personal relationship with him, although he was a good friend. We saw each other in training, we criticized people who used doping. The day he was caught, I felt betrayed.”

His daily life remains the same since the world medal

Between the two main French medal opportunities in Eugene, time did its job. “We have good relations today, underlines the pitcher. Kevin came to visit last year, shortly before Tokyo. It made me very happy to talk to him, to communicate normally again. » The environment acquitted him, aware of his efforts, aware of his attitude. Doping is not a pleasant subject, but it is not a taboo either. We also had to forgive ourselves, “not to let your head sink in for a bullshit at the age of 19”.

The doping label will stick to me for life

Remains a fine margin of the public, with the final verdict, without return. The seven-time champion of France is clear about the indelible mark, even lowered. “95% I have no more hateful comments on social media. But I know that I will never be unanimous and that some say to themselves: “Your achievements go on and on, you take us for idiots.” The doping label will stay with me for the rest of my life. All I can do is put a T-shirt over it at best. »

The man is now married and has a young father. The athlete did not see his everyday life changed by the world medal. The same training habits in his Metz club. Same job to insure the rear: driver, from September to December. We are touching the limits of the attractiveness of the throws here, poor relatives of fragile athletics. After Doha, Quentin Bigot had to recruit himself to gain access to his material supplier (Le Coq sportif). No money, only donations. Yet he sees – and this is not the least reassuring in his story – that he has inspired a few children, curious to discover the hammer and its rotations. Or the organizers of the Diamond League meeting in Paris, first opened to the discipline three weeks ago.

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