Pacemaker for former pro Theunisse after multiple heart attacks
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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Pacemaker for former pro Theunisse after multiple heart attacks

by VeloNation Press at 9:58 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
“The pacemaker already has had to save my life several times through an enormous electric shock”

Gert Jan TheunisseSuffering ill health at fifty years of age, former Tour de France King of the Mountains Gert Jan Theunisse has had a pacemaker fitted after a series of cardiac issues.

The Dutchman wrote about the issue in his column in Wielerrevue, saying that he narrowly survived multiple cardiac arrests without realising the extent of the problem. He had fainted on many occasions and when he had the issue checked, was quickly operated on.

“Before I really knew what was going on I was already in intensive care with a whole slew of plugs and drips and drugs were injected directly into my heart. Apparently in the last year I’d already had dozens of heart attacks. Thus the fainting. My heart was literally about to explode.”

Born in the Netherlands in 1963, he turned pro in 1984 with Panasonic and remained there for three seasons. Three years with PDM Concorde followed, after which he race with Panasonic Sportlife (1990), TVM Sanyo/TVM Bison Kit (1991 – 1994) and then Collstrop Lystex.

He rode prominently in the 1988 Tour de France, being the rider closest to Pedro Delgado on some of the climbs, but tested positive for testosterone.

Rather than the disqualification and lengthy ban which would have been imposed on riders in later years, he was simply penalised ten minutes. That dropped him from fourth to eleventh overall.

He won the Clásica San Sebastián the same season.

Theunisse returned to the Tour the following year and won the Alpe d’Huez stage, took the King of the Mountains classification and finished fourth overall in Paris.

More problems followed in 1990 with the Dutchman testing positive in both Flèche Wallonne and Bicicleta Vasca. It is not clear if his doping caused the health issues he later experienced, but he was forced to quit pro racing at 32 after heart trouble ruled him out of the 1995 Tirreno Adriatico.

Now, eighteen and a half years later, his health has further deteriorated and the implanted pacemaker is needed to keep him alive. He has been told that he can no longer do any intensive exercise.

“I’m currently doing well, although the pacemaker already has had to save my life several times through an enormous electric shock,” he said. “No one understands why I’m alive, they say that I must have had a whole peloton of angels on my shoulders.”

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