Belgium moves forward on blood doping doctor

A Belgian prosecutor has completed his investigation into the activities of a Rotselaar doctor, Chris Mertens, who is suspected of providing ozone therapy to 19 athletes, some of whom were professional cyclists, the Belgian media reports today.

The investigation dates back to early 2013, when Telenet-Fidea rider Tom Meeusen was questioned as a patient of Mertens and kept out of several cyclo-cross races. Meeusen insisted his visits to the doctor were not related to doping. Lotto Belisol's Jurgen Van Den Broeck also said that he has visited the doctor, but only for legitimate medical purposes.

So far one rider has been suspended as part of the investigation. Pieter Van Herck, a former teammate of Belgian champion Sven Nys, was banned for two years as a result of the probe in June of 2013.

The Belgian doctor is under investigation for providing ozone therapy, a controversial treatment where blood is extracted, infused with ozone and then re-injected. The process has been purported to help clear certain infections, but is dangerous and there is no scientific evidence for any benefits of ozone therapy.

Under the WADA code, any manipulation of blood can be considered a doping offense.

The Leuven council will decide on November 14 whether to transfer the case to the courts. Should a criminal case be undertaken, it is unlikely that any athletes would be punished under the laws, but they could face sporting sanctions under the anti-doping regulations.

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