Cycling News Flash for July 29, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
Meirhaeghe positive, stops immediately
Belgian mountain biker Filip Meirhaeghe has tested positive for EPO at an out of competition control on June 25, two days before round 5 of the mountain bike World Cup in Mont St Anne, Canada, which he won. The 33 year old World Champion told the Belga newsagency that he will stop competitive cycling immediately.
"I had but one goal ahead of me, to win gold at the Olympic Games, the only thing that I had not yet won. Therefore I conciously chose a particular product," said Meirhaeghe at a press conference today in Nazareth, Belgium. "I didn't want to fail, I wanted to win everything and in order to do that, I took a wrong decision. I have made an error, but like everyone else, I'm also human."
Belgian cycling is reeling from the blow, after both Christophe Brandt (methadone) and Dave Bruylandts (EPO) returned positive tests in the last three weeks.
Meirhaeghe was considered a strong gold medal candidate for the Olympic Games in Athens next month after having won the silver in Sydney. Belgian federation president Laurent De Backer told Sportwereld.be, "Bruylandts on the road and Meirhaeghe off road: that's two medal chances that we will kiss goodbye in Athens. But on the other hand, whoever burns their behind must sit on the blisters."
Belgian mountain bike coach Rudy De Bie said that this will have a serious effect on mountain biking in Belgium. "Filip is the man who has made mountain biking big in Belgium. This could have disastrous consequences for the sport."
Meirhaeghe claimed that he first used EPO seven weeks ago at a training camp in Austria. At the 1997 World Mountain Biking Championships in Chateau d'Oex, Meirhaeghe was one of four riders not permitted to race due to a hematocrit above 50 percent. A high hematocrit can be indicative of EPO use, although it is not proof.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)