Narcoleptic racer rides again

Change in meds means Pro free to resume career

by Tony Farrelly   November 3, 2008  

road.cc news

 After year's struggling with the sport's administrators and anti-doping authorities to be allowed Franck Bouyer looks set tol resume his professional racing career in 2009.

34 year old Bouyer suffers from narcolepsy a genetic condidtion which causes sufferers disturbed sleep at night, but, even more crucially, unpredictable and sometimes sudden episodes of sleep during the day. Narcolepsy can be treated with the right medication, without it though the condition can be crippling. 

It is something of an achievment for a narcolepsy sufferer to have a career as a professional cyclist, but that is what Franck Bouyer did, unfortunately he then fell foul of the rules. Modanfil, the most commonly prescribed treatment for narcolepsy is also on the Union Cycliste International's (UCI) prohibited list for its performance enhancing properties. 

However, the French Cycling Federation refused to give Bouyer a racing licence unless he was using Modanfil - mindful no doubt of the consequences of a rider nodding off in a bunch sprint. (Although this never happened in a race, Bouyer had on a couple of occasions recognised the warning signs and pulled off the road during a race.)

The ensuing legal battle lasted years, with the UCI standing by its decision, while the World Anti-doping Authority first backing them, and then backing Bouyer, the Court for Arbitration in Sport also ruled against him. 

He didn't give up but the length of the legal battle that looked to have ended the Frenchman's career. Then earlier this year another doctor prescribed Xyrem to treat his condition - a drug not on the banned list. 

Bouyer applied for his racing licence in July and got it he has now rejoined his old team Bouygues Télecom and plans to race again next year, but as he told the International Herald Tribune after years away he is under no illusions as to his future success:

"Lance Armstrong might be able to do that," he said, "but I don't have his motor. I hope to be riding at a correct level, mostly for the pleasure of it all. Yes, for the satisfaction of competing again."