Saturday, June 6

It’s my life, not a soap opera, bemoans Claude-Boxberger

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Claude-Boxberger reacts after winning the 1,500m race during the French athletics Championships in Miramas, southern France in this Feb 17, 2019 file photo. — AFP photo

PARIS: French athlete Ophelie Claude-Boxberger, who tested positive for EPO in September and is awaiting news on a potential ban, says she is fed up with people talking about her life as if it were a soap opera.

The 3,000 metre steeplechase specialist has been at the centre of a sordid affair that has spiralled into unseen depths after persistently denying having taken a doping substance.

Claude-Boxberger turned her own sights on Alain Flaccus, her mother’s partner and part of her coaching set-up.

Flaccus admitted last November to having administered her an injection of the banned endurance-boosting drug EPO while she was asleep. Claude-Boxberger pressed charges for poisoning.

The 31-year-old athlete, who has 14 French national medals to her name, then accused Flaccus of rape dating back to when she was a teenager, something the latter denies.

“I ask myself ‘when is it going to end?’” Claude-Boxberger told AFP in an interview.

“My life is like that, maybe sad, things have happened to me.

“People joke that it’s like a soap opera. But it’s me they’re talking about there.”

Compounding matters, Claude-Boxberger had a difficult time at September’s World Championships in Doha as she finished a distant last in her heat.

The disappointing result followed revelations that she was in a relationship with the French team’s medical director Jean-Michel Serra.

Serra quit his position midway through the championships “for personal reasons”.

“After our relationship surfaced, the nightmare continued at the Doha worlds,” she said.

“People from the (French) training team were spying on us, trying to take pictures of us. We couldn’t live our relationship anymore.”

Claude-Boxberger said she wants to report Flaccus for rape after having had her private life ripped open.

“I don’t want to pay for everything, I’ve paid enough like that with his sexual attacks,” she said.

“I don’t want to lose my career as an athlete, it’s practically all I have left.

“When I think of all the sacrifices I’ve made, it makes me angry.”

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed the wheels of anti-doping justice, something Claude-Boxberger described as a “long wait” amid accusations from the athlete that there had been no presumption of innocence by the authorities.

In reality the physical education teacher from eastern France faces a four-year ban from the track.

Looking ahead and notwithstanding that potential ban, Claude-Boxberger said she had been aiming to wrap up her track career at the Tokyo Olympics, now postponed by 12 months until 2021.

She would then try to emulate her father Jacky, who finished 42nd in the 1984 Olympic marathon in Los Angeles, by competing in that event at the Paris Olympics in 2024. — AFP