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HEALTH

French Tour de France riders enjoy longer life

Pro-cycling has a reputation for premature deaths, from crashes or from performance-boosting substances. However a new study of French riders in the Tour de France has revealed they will end up living an average 6.3 years longer than the rest of us.

French Tour de France riders enjoy longer life
Despite the drugs Tour de France riders will live an average of 6.3 years longer than everyone else. Photo: Wyll Photographie/AFP

Professional cycling has a reputation for premature deaths, either from tragic crashes on the road or from dangerous performance-boosting substances.

But a new study, based on French participants in the Tour de France, says that male pro cyclists are likelier to live longer than their counterparts in the general public — a whopping 6.3 years more, on average.

A team led by Eloi Marijon of the Paris Cardiovascular Centre measured the longevity of all French cyclists – 786 in all – who finished at least once in the Tour since 1947, and compared this against the lifespan of average Frenchmen.

As of September 1 2012, 208 out of the 786 cyclists had died.

Mortality rates among this group were 41 percent lower than in the general population, they found.

Deaths from cancer and respiratory disease were 44 percent and 72 lower respectively, and mortality from cardiovascular causes was down by a third.

The longevity held true despite three periods of doping in cycling — amphetamines, in the 1950s and 1960s; anabolic steroids in the 1970s and 1980s; and EPO and growth hormones after 1990.

The team add the caveat that the data from the post-1990 doping era are preliminary, and more time is needed to confirm the trend.

The longer lifespan could be explained in part by a healthy way of life, as many athletes continue to practice sport after they retire and very few of them smoke, says the study.

The findings were being presented on Tuesday at the Congress of the European Society of Cardiology in Amsterdam.

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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