Olivier Kaisen forced to quit cycling due to heart problem
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Monday, February 10, 2014

Olivier Kaisen forced to quit cycling due to heart problem

by VeloNation Press at 6:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Injury
“I’d have loved to race a few years more, but I have to listen to my body and respect the conclusion of the doctors”

Olivier KaisenSeveral weeks after the Australian Will Walker was forced to retire from cycling due to the flareup of a previous heart condition, another pro has decided to pack in the sport. Belgian rider Olivier Kaisen has been told by doctors that monitoring of his heart has shown up a potentially serious anomaly and as a result, he must retire.

Kaisen’s Lotto Belisol team announced this news today, saying that the thirty year old domestique – who is currently the longest running member of the squad – would stop with immediate effect.

The team’s doctor Jan Mathieu explained the situation, saying that while an issue was first picked up several months ago, that the significance of it only became clear more recently. “Each year the riders have to undergo a cardiologic examination which is made obligatory by the UCI. For this we work together with the team of cardiologist Sophie Demanez and the CHC hospital in Liège.

“The test done by Olivier in mid-November showed an aberration of the cardiac rhythm. Further examination by heart specialists doctor Demanez and professor Heidbuchel made clear that this wasn't an impediment for top sport. When Olivier had hinder again in the Tour Down Under half of January – of a different nature than before – that problem was further examined and analyzed. The results and conclusions didn't leave any room for doubts: to continue cycling isn't an option.”

Kaisen said that the news was something he had feared might happen and, much as he might wish to be able to continue, that it is no longer an option.

“After the UCI-tests in mid-November I was actually surprised when I heard an aberration was found, because I had never felt anything before, but luckily I got the permission to continue with cycling.” Upon reflection, he said that his quiet season in 2013 might have been caused by the issue but, notwithstanding that, he was able to train well at the team’s camp in December.

However his hopes that the issue would not cause any impact on his career proved not to be the case. “After the second stage at the Tour Down Under I didn't feel well. It had been a very tiring and extremely hot day and I had ridden much at the head of the bunch for André Greipel. I did start the next stage, but immediately after the start of the third stage I felt something was wrong. I was scared and together with sports director Herman Frison I decided to quit. He said I couldn't take any risks.”

He returned to Belgium and doctors there decided to get him to wear a Holter monitor for four days. The device measures and records heart rhythm and enables medical personnel to monitor subjects while they go about their day to day routine.

The examination of the data proved crucial in the decision that he must retire. “On the third day I indeed felt the same arrhythmia again. When screening the electrocardiogram the doctors were able to clearly locate the time and type of the arrhythmia; unfortunately with drastic consequences…”

The outcome is an immediate cessation of the sport. “I’d have loved to race a few years more, but I have to listen to my body and respect the conclusion of the doctors, even though this is very hard.

“I had never thought that someone else would decide about the end of my career. At the moment I'm a lot at home with my wife and son Jussi. I get lots of support from the team, friends and family, but still feel a bit lost. There are worse things in life, but cycling has been part of my life for more than twenty years. I have no idea yet how my future looks like, I only got the news a few days ago and want to let it all sink in.”

The team manager Marc Sergeant said that while he regrets the enforced retirement of his rider, there is no room for risk taking. “Health problems are disastrous for a sportsman, but at the moment when it's life-threatening, sport is of secondary importance and only the human side counts.

“Oli has been in our team for eight years and that's why the mutual involvement is big. On the other hand I'm also happy that these kind of tests are obligatory. At Lotto Belisol we even go further and within our scientific approach our riders undergo an elaborate package of tests that have to enable us to detect possible problems of all kinds in an early stage.”

He called on the same level of testing should be carried out by both professional and amateur sportspeople in order to diminish the risk of any cardiac events. He said that as a WorldTour team, his squad carries a big responsibility and that it is important to both set an example and also spread the message that it is not worth risking life.

“On behalf of myself, all staff members and all riders I deeply want to thank Oli for all generous efforts as part of the team, for his numerous kilometres at the head of the bunch, for his personality and character within the team.”

He said that the team would do what it can in the weeks and months ahead to help Kaisen move on to the next phase of his life.

The team has not yet indicated if the vacant place could be filled by another rider or if it will be left empty for this season.

Kaisen has not yet disclosed what he plans to do next, although the transition is likely to take time and it may be further down the line when he works out what his next role will be and if he will remain in the sport in some other capacity.

He was a professional since 2005 and has spent the bulk of that time with the Lotto Belisol structure. His results include a stage win in the 2009 Presidential Tour of Turkey, first in the 2007 GP Gerrie Knetemann plus fifth overall in the 2011 Tour of Beijing.


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