Bart Wellens: “Doping insinuations caused us a lot of pain”
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bart Wellens: “Doping insinuations caused us a lot of pain”

by Ben Atkins at 2:36 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Injury
 
Two-time World cyclocross champion speaks of life-threatening illness; will return next season

bart wellensBart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) has spoken of the serious illness that almost cost him his life earlier this month at an emotional press conference, according to Sporza. The 33-year-old former World cyclocross champion especially spoke about the pain caused by innuendo about his condition possibly caused by doping, and the pressure this put on his family while he was still in hospital.

Almost as soon as the details of Wellens’ illness were emerging, comparisons began to be drawn in parts of the media between the Belgian and Riccardo Riccò, who was rushed to hospital after allegedly self-administering an illegal blood transfusion. With Wellens still in hospital, and unable to answer any of the innuendos about doping, his family was left to deal with it themselves.

"My wife and my baby have to undergo a lot, while I scarcely knew anything,” Wellens explained. “This has affected me deeply,"

Wellens denied that his complaint was in any way connected with anything illegal, declaring himself a clean rider.

"I know what I'm all for doing and how I practice my sport,” he said. “And the first question when you leave the hospital once you get out is about that, then it causes a lot of pain.

"I understand that some people think bad things because of the image of the sport, and the moment at which it happened,” he conceded. “But only Bart Wellens knows… knows how hard I work."

The former two-time World and two-time Belgian champion was taken ill suddenly, on the eve of the Belgian championships in Hooglede-Gits earlier in the month. Because of a recent rise in form he was considered to have a good chance of a medal in the race, but it was not to be as he was rushed to hospital with an extreme temperature.

"I was afraid,” he said. “It started with a fever and an attack of flu, then I threw up and I was in a lot of pain. My wife quickly took me to hospital, where thankfully the doctors were well prepared and intervened.”

He was initially taken to the local hospital in Geel but, as his condition worsened he was transferred to the intensive care unit of the University Hospital in Antwerp.

"Two days later, in the Antwerp University Hospital, the doctor told me the whole story and I realised just how bad it was,” he explained. “I had once asked if I had died because I had an unfamiliar feeling, but then no one responded.”

Wellens was released from hospital on Friday and has apparently felt no ill effects of his ordeal. His season is obviously over, but the 33-year-old is refusing to think of retiring just yet and he plans to return to racing next winter.

“If there is any risk, then I will stop,” he said. “Right now they have promised me that everything is okay for the future, but I must first take my time.

"And I will continue to ride races in a beautiful manner, because I stand 100 per cent behind a clean sport,” he said. “For this reason I am glad that we can put all insinuations behind us."

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