Belgian drops out of Olympics, quits sport

Updated: July 29, 2004, 10:12 AM ET
Reuters

BRUSSELS -- Belgian world champion mountain biker Filip Meirhaeghe has pulled out of the Olympics and quit the sport after admitting testing positive for a banned substance.

The 33-year-old, considered one of Belgium's best hopes for a gold medal at the Aug. 13-29 Games in Athens, said Thursday he was retiring after testing positive for the blood-boosting substance EPO (erythropoietin) last month.

"It was during a training camp in Austria, seven weeks ago, that I tried EPO for the first time," he told a news conference.

"I really wanted to perform well during the Olympics. They were the last goal in my career, but I was not feeling well and my form was full of ups and downs, and that is why I took EPO.

"It was a bad decision but I am a human being, after all. Being caught, I decided to retire immediately."

A silver-medallist at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Meirhaeghe said he had tested positive two days before a mountain bike cross country World Cup race which he won on June 27 in Quebec.

One week later, Meirhaeghe, who is second in the overall rankings, won another World Cup race in Calgary.

Meirhaeghe said he was not sure what the future would hold.

"I do not know what I will do. ... I just heard two days ago that I tested positive," he said.

"I immediately understood it would be fatal for my career.

"Nobody from my entourage knew about that EPO use. Not even my girlfriend."

ALSO SEE