Gianni Meersman (Française des Jeux) was close friends with Frederiek Nolf (Topsport Vlaanderen) and the two often trained together. After hearing the news of Nolf's death, Meersman immediately visited the family of the young Belgian. Meersman and Nolf lived very close to each other in West Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Meersman was still in shock a day after the news broke. "It is still so unreal. He was my best friend," Meersman told sporza.be. "We will never again laugh together, train together or go to races together."
Meersman said that they were in contact on a daily basis and on Wednesday they were still exchanging SMS messages. Nolf died in the night from Wednesday to Thursday.
Meersman explained why he liked hanging out with Nolf. "He was a great guy and you could always count on him."
Their friendship went so far that they shared a common dream. "He should have gone into breaks of the big races later in the year, to get noticed. Then I could have made Française des Jeux aware of him so we could race together."
Cardiologists sees doping unlikely
Meersman added that the death came without apparent warning. "He never complained about heart problems or anything like that. He always said that he had a V6-engine under his cap."
Nolf even had two cardio tests recently. "I know some people will use this opportunity to draw conclusions that can't be drawn. This was a natural death," Meersman said.
Pedro Brugada, cardiologist at the university clinic in Jette, agreed with the assessment. "It is unlikely it was a doping related death. The teams don't take these kinds of risks anymore," Brugada said to Het Nieuwsblad. It was likely a hereditary problem. "A gene that regulates the heart beat was probably defect and that resulted in the heart suddenly stopping to beat."
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