Pinot was suffering from the effects of a crash during the opening day of the Tour de France, an injury that saw him drop off the pace in the general classification battle at the race, and then abandon the Vuelta a Espana, with scans later revealing small cracks in his sacrum and pelvis that had been masked by a previous haemetoma.
Pinot received a corticosteroid injection in November 2020, after over a month of rest had not resolved Pinot's issues, with a lingering contusion present.
"That’s why we took the decision to do what we should have done a long time ago, but which I always refused to," Pinot said in an interview with L'Equipe. "From an ethical point of view, I’ve always been against it. But we were in a period totally out of competition, in the middle of winter. It was truly with the goal of healing, of being treated. Never would I have done that between two races."
The controversy around corticosteroids and their use within competitions is that a rider can obtain a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) from the UCI that allows them to use the normally banned substance. Pinot had a strong objection to the practice, citing his recent experience with cortisone.
"When you have an injection or you use cortisone, the effects last for at least three weeks," said Pinot. "Some do it just before races – out of competition, but the effect is there. I am completely opposed to all that, but cycling still operates at two speeds, I think."
"I had a lot of hope with [UCI President] David Lappartient, I believed it was sort of his thing. They banned tramadol, but it would have been good if they’d done the same with corticoids.
"A guy who has a TUE has no business being on a bike. They’re not fit for competition. I don’t understand that people race bikes on cortisone."
Later in the interview, Pinot elaborated on his stance: "If you need it, ok, but out of competition and you stop for four weeks."
Pinot abandoned the 2019 Tour de France while still in contention for victory, he was in good form and at that point just 20 seconds off the eventual winner, Egan Bernal, but pulled out during Stage 19 with a flood of tears.
"When I see the effect the injection had on me, I tell myself that there are several races I would have finished,” Pinot said, referring to the 2019 Tour de France.
Pinot also addressed the use of ketones - the legal energy source which replicates the ketones naturally produced by the liver - which he believes are having a big effect on the way cycling is evolving.
“It’s said that it helps you lost weight," said Pinot. "The hardest thing about cycling isn’t doing six or seven hours on the bike, it’s your weight – slimming down without losing power. Certain studies say it drains your body of water, but if that’s the case, it’s already huge."
“Some riders are contacted on Instagram, solicited to buy ketones. Juniors, U23s, young riders who are alone and who absolutely want to turn pro, they could be tempted, and that shocks me.”