Italian doctor claims Merckx had a serious heart defect
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Italian doctor claims Merckx had a serious heart defect

by VeloNation Press at 7:02 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Says Belgian ‘rode with the sword of Damocles over his head’

Eddy MerckxItalian doctor Giancarlo Lavezzaro has claimed that Eddy Merckx competed with a serious heart defect and that if he was racing today, obligatory medical tests on riders would have meant he would have been refused a licence.

Interviewed in the new biography of the rider, entitled ‘Eddy Merckx, The Cannibal,’ Lavezzaro refers to a cardiogram he carried out on the Belgian plus his then-Faema team-mate Vittorio Adorni,

He said that he was stunned by the result. ‘A glance was enough to show that the cardiogram was alarming,” he said. ‘There were no symptoms, only the risk of sudden death. Eddy Merckx rode his entire career with the sword of Damocles over his head."

Merckx won over 500 races during his career, including five Tours de France, five Giri d’Italia and three world road race championships. He stated in the book that he was surprised to hear the claims, and stated that he was not told of any issues at the time.

"After that ride in the Giro, there was indeed such a cardiogram taken," he said. "What I was told is that only the team doctor Peracino worried and that he went to Turin to that professor. But the man said there was no problem. Everything was in order. So I heard later, at the time I myself was unaware.”

Lavezzaro paints a very different picture. "Every day after work I went back home and asked my wife what had happened in the Giro,” he recounted. “I feared she would reply that there was a problem with the Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx."

He is clear that things would be very different today due to the obligatory checks.

"Today I would never let Merckx race,” he said. “We could clearly see that he had a problem, but an exact diagnosis could then only with an invasive procedure. During the Giro was impossible.” He stated that a scan carried out a year later on the president of the Turin football club produced similar results and, after diagnostic tests using better equipment in Houston, that a conclusion was reached.

“There a ‘non-obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy ' was diagnosed,” he explained. “With the scans that riders now undergo, someone with that diagnosis would not get a licence.”

The Belgian rider concedes that there were problems in his family, but played down the story. “I know I have a special heart, it's very big,” he said. “In the School of Sport in Cologne they have photos of it displayed precisely because it is so big. On my father's side there are many heart problems. He and several uncles died young. I myself undergo examinations. I do sport and take medication to keep everything under control. But during my career I never had any problems.”

The rider may have dodged a bullet, but many other sportsmen have died prematurely from heart conditions. As a result annual screening is carried out by national federations.


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