By Gerard Knapp
Despite reports to the contrary, promising 21-year-old Australian rider Nic Sanderson has no intention of ending his career and is "more motivated than ever" to succeed as elite-level road cyclist.
The bronze medalist in the junior road race at the 2002 World Championships recently had his contract with Belgian ProTour team Davitamon-Lotto annulled due to disclosure that he suffered from a mild form of epilepsy. But as the rider explained to Cyclingnews, the condition has, "never affected my cycling. I've had two episodes in my whole life; I've had some tests done and it showed only a mild dose of epilepsy". He said when necessary he needed to take "only mild dosage medication" that is not included on any banned list.
Sanderson has remained training in Victoria and remains hopeful of securing a contract for 2006. He is represented by leading Belgian agent, Paul de Geyter of Sport and Entertainment Management (SEM), one of cycling's leading agents whose clients range from Tom Boonen to Bobby Julich. The agent said it was a "very unfortunate situation" but "both parties decided it was best to end the contract". Neither Sanderson nor de Geyter would criticize Davitamon-Lotto and both had accepted the outcome, and stressed they wish to move forward as quickly as possible.
De Geyter said it was not ideal to be securing a new contract at this stage of the season, even if his young client has undoubted talent. "If this happened in October I would not be too scared, but in February it will be difficult." Sanderson signed his contract with the team in early September 2005, and represented the squad in the Jayco Herald-Sun Tour in Victoria. He was also named for the Davitamon-Lotto team for the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, but he said he "came down with something," and felt poorly, so the team sent him home to recover. Earlier in the month, Sanderson had been a DNF in the men's road race at the Australian Open.
De Geyter was keen to move on. "It's not in Nic's interests to inflame the situation," he said. The issue with Davitamon-Lotto "was not primarily a health problem".
Even though epilepsy is not uncommon, the condition is widely misunderstood. However, it has not shown to be an impediment to athletic performance. One of its most high-profile campaigners is now-retired French cyclist Marion Clignet. At the time Clignet developed epilepsy, she had been living in Chicago since early childhood after her parents emigrated from France. Clignet was developing into a very promising cyclist but such was the lack of support or understanding of her condition, she believed she would not be selected in USA teams, so she moved back to France and represented that country with distinction.
Clignet said the condition - and the lack of understanding surrounding it - gave her added motivation to "get out and train day in and day out, just to prove to myself and others that it could be done despite the treatment and the disorder". Clignet had a distinguished career and went on to became a dual Olympic silver medalist, a world record holder in the individual pursuit and winner of six world championship titles, among many other victories.