Bernard Sainz

Bernard Sainz
Personal information
Full name Bernard Sainz
Nickname Dr Mabuse
Born (1943-09-01) September 1, 1943
Rennes, France
Team information
Role Manager / Doctor
Professional team(s)
1958 onwards UC Créteil
Managerial team(s)
1972 - Mercier (GAN) Team doctor
Major wins
1964 3rd in French students' championship
Infobox last updated on
October, 2008

Bernard Sainz, aka Dr Mabuse, (born Rennes, France, 1 September 1943)[1] is a medicine practitioner who achieved great success in horse racing and cycling.


Bernard Sainz began cycle-racing in 1958 when he was 15, riding a race on rollers.[2] He won a bicycle as fastest rider.[3] He joined the UC Créteil a club in the suburbs of Paris. One of his first training companions was Pierre Trentin,[4] a future sprint champion. In 1964 he came third in the French students' championship in his home town. The winner was Jean-Marie Leblanc,[5] who became a professional and then organiser of the Tour de France. He stopped racing after crashing in a motor-paced race on the velodrome at Grenoble

Sainz first consulted a homeopathic doctor in 1956 after persistent sinusitis. Sainz said:

He (the homeopath) was the only one who could cure it (sinusitis) and I remember a doctor who was different, whose approach intrigued and interested me enormously.[6]

Sainz says he studied for three years at the homeopathic school of St Jacques in Paris and at the national homeopathy centre, from which he said he qualified with the praise of the examiners.[7] He has always insisted that he practised homeopathy in treating racing cyclists. He accepts in his biography that his qualifications in homeopathy and acupuncture are not recognised in France.

Horse racing

Bernard Sainz came to notice at horse racing tracks. In 1988 one of his three-year-olds, Soft Machine, caused a surprise by winning a big race three days after losing an unimportant one for which he had been favourite.[8] The suspicion was that Sainz had doped the horse to run faster, but nothing was found. Sainz said:

Vets threw themselves on Soft Machine to take a dope test, sure that he was doped. He had blood analyses and even, it seems, a muscular biopsy.[9]

It was the training that he gave horses and the instructions that he gave his jockeys, he said in his autobiography, that made his horse successful. Sainz said he was surprised, with his cycling background, to see how lightly horses were trained. The accepted theory was that a horse should race and then rest for 18 days.

For someone who had come from a milieu where men were capable of racing 200km a day for three weeks, it was another world! The idea of interval training was unknown. In high-level sport, the difference comes in mastering details. You have to understand all the parametres likely to influence performance.[10]

It was around this time that Sainz acquired the nickname Dr Mabuse, after the villain in a series of German books and films. Sainz was questioned in an inquiry into possible doping of horses.[11] Horse-racing, Sainz said, was an area where he had made few friends and which didn't lack dangerous people.[12]


One cyclist said of him:
"I was disappointed when we were introduced. I'd expected to meet the Prince of Darkness. Instead I found myself opposite a quiet man in his 50s, lightly tanned, little Armani glasses on his nose and a cigar between his lips. So this was the magician of doping, the great puppet-master?"


Bernard Sainz returned to cycling in 1972, joining the Mercier team when Louis Caput replaced Antonin Magne as manager. Caput approached Edmond Mercier, the bicycle-maker behind Poulidor's team, and asked to bring Sainz into the team management. Mercier agreed, said Sainz, because he was already treating Mercier for his own health problems. Mercier had also brought in the insurance company, GAN, as main sponsor. GAN, said Sainz, wanted Raymond Poulidor, who had said the previous year that he would not race any more. Sainz said:

Louis Caput couldn't stand the idea that such a monument of cycling could leave the sport by the back door. Poulidor agreed to meet me, although insisting that his decision to stop was irrevocable. In the style of a true Limousin, Poupou was reserved and careful, even defiant, but very quickly I sensed that he was attentive to what I was suggesting. I took his pulse for a long time as is the tradition in acupuncture, I examined the iris of his eyes according to the principles of iridology, and the soles of his feet according to the principles of reflexology.[14]

Sainz continued:

From the moment he started training again at home, in the Limousin, he rediscovered lost sensations... He called me three times a week. When he got to the traditional training camp on the Côte d'Azur, far from still believing as he had three months earlier that his career was over, he insisted on riding the races that opened the new season. I was obliged to intervene, to dissuade him, and then in face of his determination, to persuade him not to finish them.[15]

In Paris–Nice, the first important stage race of the season, Poulidor was 22 seconds behind Eddy Merckx on the morning of the last day. Poulidor attacked from the start, setting a speed record on the col de la Turbie that stood for more than 10 years and won Paris–Nice by two seconds. Next year he won Paris–Nice again and also the Dauphiné Libéré.

Sainz also treated Cyrille Guimard when pain in his knees was threatening his lead in the Tour de France. The two had met three years earlier. Sainz kept Guimard in the Tour even though the rider had sometimes to be carried from his bicycle. Sainz said:

It was at the time of our collaboration that the first accusations of doping came. An absurd rumour with a life as long as the Loch Ness monster because I saw it reappear in the Journal du Dimanche on 30 April 2000! For 30 years, people have been saying that I pushed Cyrille beyond his limits and that his knees ended up cracking in the 1972 Tour de France because of my methods. As is often the case, people talk and write, claiming to know everything when they know nothing.[16]

'Dr' Mabuse

Sainz's standing in cycling has frequently awarded him the title "doctor". The sports daily, L'Équipe spoke of how "Dr Bernard Sainz looked after the health of Louis Caput's team."[17] Three days later it repeated the title in writing of Cyrille Guimard.[17] In 1975 Nord Éclair referred to Sainz as having "had several years of medicine and looks after the medical cares of riders." [17] As Dr Jean-Pierre de Mondenard pointed out: "In fact, the good Bernard did zero years of medicine." In the same year, L'Équipe wrote "Dr Sainz of the GAN team will probably join Gitane."[17] Joop Zoetemelk refers to Sainz as "doctor" in a biography[18] and so does Erwann Menthéour, another former rider[13]

Menthéour said:

I called the man whom all riders call when they have a problem: Dr Mabuse. For more than 30 years, the good doctor has been a central personality in the cycling world... and in horse-racing! He 'cares for' [soigne] men and horses without distinction, improving their performances with an efficiency universally recognised. A former amateur rider of talent, Mabuse looks after riders by love and horses by interest. My father calls him 'God' because of the fascination he exerts on those who approach him. But despite his powers, which are enormous, Mabuse has none of the exterior signs of a guru. The real power is inside. Everybody recognises his massive but discreet silhouette beside finish lines. He is seen but never mentioned.[13]

See also


  1. Sainz, Bernard (2000), Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J C Lattès, France, p27
  2. Sainz, Bernard (2000), Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J C Lattès, France, p35
  3. Sainz, Bernard (2000), Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J C Lattès, France, p36
  4. Sainz, Bernard (2000), Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J C Lattès, France, p38
  5. Sainz, Bernard (2000), Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J C Lattès, France, p44
  6. Sainz, Bernard (2000), Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J C Lattès, France, p49
  7. Sainz, Bernard (2000), Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J C Lattès, France, p50
  8. Sports, 11 May 99
  9. Sainz, Bernard (2000), Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J C Lattès, France, p145
  10. Sainz, Bernard (2000), Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J C Lattès, France, p127
  11. The New Zealand Herald, 12.08,2005 by Catherine Field, Racing: Arrests in French doping case
  12. Sainz, Bernard (2000), Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J C Lattès, France, p172
  13. 1 2 3 Menthéour, Erwann (1999), Secret Défonce, J C Lattès, France, p80
  14. Sainz, Bernard (2000)Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J.C. Lattes, France, pp 9798
  15. Sainz, Bernard (2000) Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J.C. Lattes, France p98
  16. Sainz, Bernard (2000) Les Stupéfiantes Révélations du Dr Mabuse, J. C. Lattès, France, p63
  17. 1 2 3 4 Bakchich Info, 29 June, (2008), Sports. Cited - Dr Jean-Pierre de Mondenard "Le docteur Mabuse du Cyclisme n'est pas même médicin
  18. Pagnoud, G. (1980) Zoetemelk, La Prochaine Étape, Solar, France, p11
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