Heirewegh suspended for two and a half years

37 year-old Belgian Bart Heirewegh has been suspended for doping for two and a half years, despite the fact that he chose to retire at the end of 2004. Heirewegh, who rode his last races in Australia, tested positive for EPO during the 2004 Tour of Antwerp, which he won. The Flemish government suspended him from December 1, 2004 until May 31, 2007. It also suspended three other amateurs, including World Military Champion Hans Ardeel (December 1, 2004 - February 28, 2006), Karolien Heirbaut (December 1, 2004 - November 30, 2005) and Peter Verhofstadt (November 15, 2004 - February 14, 2006).

"I went a little bit too far," Heirewegh was quoted by Het Laatste Nieuws as saying. "And I was informed a little bit too late about the possibilities of the controls. What I did, I prefer to keep to myself. I did something to stay healthy and to keep my condition. It was not to ride faster. And I only did it at the end of my career, after a period when I had a lot of health problems. Actually it makes no difference for me any more. My decision to retire was already made."

A professional since 1993, winning several stages in the Herald Sun Tour and the Melbourne-Warrnambool, Heirewegh race in the Elite without Contract category in Belgium for the last three years of his career. His team this year was Deschacht-Eddy Merckx, the same team that Jeremy Yates (who was banned by the Belgian cycling federation for two years for having an unexplained high testosterone level) rode for.

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