Cause of death speculation
Sadly, for cycling, the speculation has already begun that this is drug-related death, partly because of the reputation of the sport and the historical precedent for this type of event among cyclists. At this early stage, the ASO (the Tour's organizers) couldn't even confirm the death, and so discussing a cause is very, very premature.
However, a few people emailed me the story this morning with the very obvious implication that this was yet another in a long series of sudden deaths in fit and healthy athletes. In the 1990s, there was a spate of sudden deaths, at least a dozen, where fit amateur and professional cyclists died in their sleep. That negative publicity was at least part of the reason for the clamping down on EPO use, which was rampant at the time.
It brings to mind one of the most fascinating quotes I've ever come across in a cycling book - it was in the book "The death of Marco Pantani" by Matt Rendell, in which a story is recounted of how in the 1990's, with EPO use rampant, the cyclists would set their heart rate monitors to sound an alarm if their heart rate dropped below a certain level. On hearing the alarm, the cyclists would have to wake up, get the bike out and spend 10 minutes on the rollers, in their hotel rooms, just to jump start the circulation.
In the words of one cyclist: "During the day we live to ride, and at night, we ride to stay alive". Quite chilling, and I must confess that these were the first thoughts that went through my head upon reading of the death of Nolf.
Friday, February 6, 2009
More on the sudden death of Frederiek Nolf from Science of Sportt