Controversy erupts over Rafa Nadal confession after French Open

Rafa Nadal, pictured here speaking to the media at the French Open.
Rafa Nadal speaks to the media at the French Open. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Rafa Nadal's eye-opening comments about receiving pain-killing injections to play at the French Open have divided opinion in the sporting world.

Speaking in his post-match press conference after winning the French Open for a 14th time, Nadal revealed he received a number of injections in his left foot throughout the tournament in order to play.

The Spanish champion has been dealing with a chronic foot problem for years, and has struggled in recent months to get the pain under control.

RUBBED OUT: Tennis star banned from Wimbledon in shock scandal

'RIDICULOUS': Iga Swiatak's epic act in wake of Ash Barty retirement

The 36-year-old said his foot was virtually asleep during the final against Casper Ruud, which he won 6-3 6-3 6-0 to capture his 22nd grand slam title.

“We played with no feeling in the foot, with a [pain-killing] injection on the nerve," he told Eurosport.

"The foot was asleep, and that’s why I was able to play.”

When asked how many injections he received throughout the French Open, Nadal replied: "You don't want to know."

While pain-killing injections are perfectly legal in tennis and the majority of sports around the world, a number of top cyclists have questioned the ethics of using them.

Injections are strictly illegal in cycling, a sport which has been tarnished in recent years by a number of doping scandals.

Top French rider Thibaut Pinot took to social media in reaction to Nadal's comments, quoting a tweet in which Nadal said "it’s better if you don’t know" how many injections he received.

“The heroes of today…” he wrote alongside two emojis - one of a thinking face and the second of a melting face.

Pinot then retweeted comments from investigative journalist Clémence Lacour on the matter.

“His [Pinot’s] tweet speaks ironically of ‘the heroes of today’," wrote Lacour.

"These heroes who choose performance at the expense of their bodies and at the cost of physical problems so bad they must put them to sleep. Is this the model we want for ourselves and our children?”

Thibaut Pinot, pictured here competing at the Tour de Romandie.
French rider Thibaut Pinot competes at the Tour de Romandie. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images) (FABRICE COFFRINI via Getty Images)

Debate erupts after Rafa Nadal's injections admission

Fellow French rider Guillaume Martin followed up on the controversy on Tuesday in an interview with newspaper L’Equipe.

“What Nadal did would have been impossible in cycling, and I find that normal,” Martin said, referring to the UCI’s no-needle policy.

“If you’re ill or injured, you don’t race, you don’t compete, that makes sense to me, for several reasons.

"Firstly, for the health of athletes. In the long-term I’m not sure that will do any good to Nadal’s ankle.

"Moreover, medication - and especially injections - don’t just have a healing effect; they can certainly have effects on performance or be twisted to improve performance, so it seems to me to be very much on the limit.”

Rafa Nadal, pictured here posing with his trophy after winning the French Open.
Rafa Nadal poses with his trophy after winning the French Open. (Photo by Ibrahim Ezzat/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Martin pointed out the clear differences between cycling and other sports.

“If a cyclist does the same thing, it’s already banned, but even if that wasn’t the case, everyone would pile on, branding them as doped because there’s such a cultural background, such clichés attached to cycling,” he said.

“Meanwhile people laud Nadal for being capable of going deep into pain. I believe [footballer] Zlatan Ibrahimovic also spoke about injections in his knee.

"They pass as heroes because they go deep into pain, but in fact, they avail of substances in order to go deep into pain and, once again, it’s very much on the limit.

"The winner in cycling, in particular the Tour, even if there’s nothing to it, is systematically accused of doping.”

Nadal has since admitted the French Open is the only event in which he would take injections to play, and said he won't do the same for Wimbledon.

"Wimbledon is a priority, always has been a priority. If I'm able to play with anti-inflammatories, yes," he said.

"To play with anaesthetic injections, I do not want to put myself in that position again. It can happen once but no it's not the philosophy of life I want to follow."

On Tuesday, Nadal could be seen on crutches as he returned home to Mallorca in worrying signs ahead of Wimbledon.

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.