Officials from Team Type 1-Sanofi-Aventis have informed the Spanish cycling federation, USA Cycling and the UCI that rider Ivan Melero will end his career as a professional cyclist due to an uncommon heart deformation detected in preseason testing.
Team doctor Massimiliano Mantovani said the 28-year-old Melero, underwent testing at the team’s December training camp in Athens, Georgia, where an echocardiogram showed strong indications of a dilated aortic root.
“The aortic root is the point where blood leaves the heart. The implications of a dilated aorta for an athlete are serious, and in December when the medical staff saw this, it was determined that further testing was necessary to obtain a more precise diagnosis. Until then, Ivan could train but not race,” Mantovani said.
Mantovani said Melero’s dilated aortic root was “not very common,” and typically occurs in two or three cases per thousand. Mantovani said the aorta where it enters the heart is at risk under stress if its diameter is too wide.
“A small dilation in some athletes is common, and training generally increases the diameter of the heart overall. But this is a physiologic dilation. What Ivan has is pathological, and the increase we saw in his aortic root was beyond the boundaries of training,” Mantovani said.
Melero traveled back to his home in Segovia, and then visited Milan’s Sacco Hospital in February under team care. A thorough examination at the hospital’s Marfan Syndrome Unit verified the diagnosis, and team management was informed.
“At the Professional Continental level we have a responsibility to our athletes and to the UCI to conduct thorough medical examinations — check-ups that are more rigorous and thorough than at lower levels of the sport — and to make sure that the health of an individual is not at risk in a bike race, pure and simple,” said general manager Vassili Davidenko.
“With Ivan we brought out a full array of support options, at first checking to see if this was an isolated case of temporary overtraining, or if it was a genetic condition, or if in fact his life was at risk from everyday physical activity. We supported him fully and made sure he got the best possible testing available.
“The good news is Ivan is healthy and will live a normal life as a recreational athlete, but the unfortunate reality is that his career as a professional cyclist can not continue.”