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On the fringes of the Assises du journalisme currently being held in Tours, This Is Beirut has obtained an exclusive interview with Damien Ressiot, former journalist and current director of testing at the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD).

At 60 years of age (he looks 15 years younger), Damien Ressiot is anything but an ordinary character.

A former journalist with the build of a rugby player, he is a leading figure in French sports journalism, renowned for his investigative and revealing work in the field of sport, particularly where doping is concerned. He began his career as a journalist for renowned publications such as France Football and L’Équipe, where he quickly earned a reputation for his integrity and professionalism. One of the most notable cases in which Ressiot played a key role was the VA-OM (Valenciennes-Olympique de Marseille) affair in 1993. This case came to light when several Valenciennes players admitted to having taken bribes to lose a league match against Olympique de Marseille. Ressiot was one of the first journalists to investigate the scandal and reveal to the public the disturbing details of match-fixing that rocked French soccer. His work was crucial in bringing the affair to light and led to severe sanctions against those involved, led by Bernard Tapie. “I won’t hide from you the fact that all the journalists who wrote on the subject received threats from Bernard Tapie’s henchmen. But I was never afraid,” says Ressiot.

Ressiot went on to tackle other sensitive subjects, notably doping in sport. His investigative work helped uncover several notable doping cases, including that of Lance Armstrong in 2005, one of the world’s biggest cycling stars. “His character was despicable, to say the least,” Ressiot recalls for This Is Beirut. “He was arrogant and detestable towards everyone: tour organizers, other riders, journalists… His bad attitude towards journalists was the trigger. From then on, I never let go of the case until I finally caught him, at the cost of a lot of hard work,” he remembers. All this eventually led to Armstrong’s disqualification from his seven Tour de France victories and a series of sanctions against him. “In a way, he shot himself in the foot,” says Ressiot. “If he had displayed the low profile of a nice or normal guy, maybe I wouldn’t have been so interested in him and he might have escaped justice.” The repentant Texan sought to meet his tormentor a few years ago, during a redemption tour. “I refused because it was cheap marketing at the time. Today, I wouldn’t have any concerns about it,” Ressiot contextualizes. After the fall of the Armstrong legend, the world of sport entered a new era, and Damien Ressiot earned the nickname Mr. Anti-Doping. So much so that, for 15 years, he was the only journalist at L’Équipe from whom athletes didn’t want to receive a phone call. “Just think, I was dealing with doping issues,” Ressiot laughs to this day.

Then he felt “like acting.” Where some sports journalists, after years of toiling in the corridors of stadiums, go on to become club press officers, he logically became a soldier in the fight against doping. Thus, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the fight against doping, Damien Ressiot was appointed Director of the French Anti-Doping Agency in 2015. Since taking over as head of the AFLD, Ressiot has worked tirelessly to strengthen anti-doping efforts in France and abroad. Under his leadership, the AFLD has intensified its doping controls and awareness programs, helping to promote clean and fair sport.

In response to our latest question on the “Enhanced Games” planned for 2025 in Australia, where there will be no anti-doping tests, Damien Ressiot chokes, “I can’t find the words, it’s absurd and goes completely against the values, morals and ethics I’ve been fighting for for years.”

A losing battle then? Not for sure. Mr. Anti-Doping is capable of pulling a rabbit out of his hat at the last minute. All means are good against cheaters.