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Autopsy: Vandenbroucke died of natural causes

The results of an autopsy performed in Senegal indicate that cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke died of a double pulmonary embolism combined with an existing heart problem, Belgian newspapers reported Saturday. Vandenbroucke, 34, was found dead earlier this week in his hotel room in the Senegalese resort of Saly, where he had been on holiday with cyclist friend Fabio Polazzi. According to reports published in Het Laatste Nieuws and Het Nieuwsblad, investigators concluded that Vandenbroucke died a natural death and his body had now been released for a return to Belgium.

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By Agence France Presse

The results of an autopsy performed in Senegal indicate that cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke died of a double pulmonary embolism combined with an existing heart problem, Belgian newspapers reported Saturday.

Vandenbroucke, 34, was found dead earlier this week in his hotel room in the Senegalese resort of Saly, where he had been on holiday with cyclist friend Fabio Polazzi.

According to reports published in Het Laatste Nieuws and Het Nieuwsblad, investigators concluded that Vandenbroucke died a natural death and his body had now been released for a return to Belgium.

The rider suffered a “double pulmonary embolism as well as having an existing heart problem”, Salobe Ngingie, the public prosecutor for the Thies region overseeing the probe, told Het Nieuwsblad. A pulmonary embolism is a blockage of the main artery of the lung or one of its branches, usually caused by a blood clot.

While officials determined that Vandenbroucke’s death was from natural causes, there were indications of drug and alcohol abuse.

“The autopsy showed that deceased had several injection marks on his left arm,” Ngingie said, adding that a syringe, alcohol and medicines were found in Vandenbroucke’s hotel room.

Vandenbroucke made his professional debut in 1994 and recorded 51 victories, including the 1999 Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic, his career highlight.

In 2002, Vandenbroucke was twice stopped by police under the influence of alcohol at the wheel of a car. Later that year, a police search at his home uncovered a large quantity of doping substances.

Vandenbroucke had suffered from depression and two years ago tried to commit suicide after his wife said she was divorcing him.

In 2003, when he rode for the Quick Step team, Vandenbroucke appeared to be on the way back after an impressive second-place finish in the Tour of Flanders classic, but he sank into depression the following year.