France swimmer Amaury Leveaux sparks fury with cocaine claims
A French Olympic swimming champion has caused fury among the sport's authorities after claiming that his colleagues on the national side regularly take cocaine.
Amaury Leveaux, who won gold in the 100m relay at the 2012 London Olympics, makes his allegation in an autobiography published on Wednesday.
Entitled Sex, Drugs and Swimming, it purports to offer an unsavoury behind-the-scenes glimpse at the world of competitive swimming.
In a chapter dealing with drug use, Leveaux says that top French swimming stars regularly snort cocaine, mainly - but not only - for fun.
"Some of us wouldn't spit at a little line of coke from time to time. For others it's not just a little line, it's a complete motorway covered in white powder which they zoom down at top speed," he writes.
"And then let's not be coy - cocaine is a doping agent. It is the kind of happy drug which gives you the feeling of being invincible and never tired - pushing back your limits and transforming you into a warrior ready for anything."
He says on one occasion during the Olympics a trainer came to their rooms and warned them that an anti-doping test would take place the next day.
"He specifically mentioned cocaine as one to avoid. I found that strange."
Leveaux also describes an incident at the London Games, where one of the French swimmers - he does not give the name - left a nightclub in the company of the establishment's female press officer.
"Later that night he sent me a text saying I should come round to the girl's flat - and that's where I found him lying on top of her and sniffing a line of coke from between her breasts," he writes.
The French Swimming Federation (FNF) has reacted with outrage to Leveaux's claims, with vice-president Lucien Gastaldello saying the swimmer had "shot himself in the foot" and should now repay his debts to the federation.
"Everyone is disgusted by his attitude," said Gastaldello. "He was going to do television commentaries on some forthcoming events. He can forget that. Who would speak to him now?"
Leveaux - who comes from a modest background in the eastern city of Belfort - reserves some of his strongest criticism for members of the elite Marseille Swimming Club, who have dominated the sport in France in recent years . They are, he writes, "pretty boys with big heads".
He also lays into the sport's governing body, describing the FNF as "dinosaurs" who have brought "Nothing with a capital N" to swimming.
"They squeeze swimmers like lemons and then chuck them into the rubbish bin when they are through."
Le Monde's sports correspondent Henri Seckel said the book's sensational title was a bit of an oversell and that he wanted more on what really would have "broken the code of silence in swimming" - i.e. the facts on performance-enhancing drug use.
Leveaux makes some allusions to this, but never directly.
He mentions a Russian female swimmer who he says "went back home from time to time to get testosterone injections."
He says this Russian swimmer explained to him how her team escaped anti-doping inspections.
"Every swimmer had a 'double' who had the same name on his or her passport. It was this double, who was based in the same hotel room…. that was tested after the event - without the officials ever noticing," he writes.
Leveaux, who retired in 2013, has four Olympic medals in all, and still holds the world record for 100m freestyle (short course). In the 2008 Olympics he was pipped to gold in the 50m freestyle by Brazil's Cesar Cielo, who in 2011 failed a doping test.
In the book he compares Cielo to Lance Armstrong, and in a pre-launch interview with L'Equipe magazine adds: "For cheats and paedophiles, it's the same: a bullet in the head."
While on the national team, Leveaux enjoyed a mildly 'bad boy' reputation, but he denied the book is motivated by jealousy of his more glamorous team-mates, such as Alain Bernard or Yannick Agnel.