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Merckx shrugs off cancer claims

A healthy looking Eddy Merckx talks to Fabian Cancellara in Qatar.

A healthy looking Eddy Merckx talks to Fabian Cancellara in Qatar. (Image credit: Stephen Farrand)

Eddy Merckx has confirmed to Cyclingnews that he has never had intestinal cancer despite a report in a Belgian newspaper claimed that he had admitted to the illness during an interview.

The Sud Presse newspaper claimed on Saturday that Merckx had admitted suffering from intestinal cancer a few years ago when he suddenly lost weight and said that he has had to be careful what he eats and drinks ever since.

Merckx looked healthy as he watched the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar and dismissed the report in Sud Presse with a shrug of the shoulders and a few harsh words.

"I never talked about intestinal cancer during the interview. I don't understand why it was written in the paper," he said to Cyclingnews.

"I talked about some stomach problems during a big interview I did with a soccer coach but all I said was that I didn’t drink champagne or white wine anymore because it doesn't suit my stomach."

"But I still drink red wine and as people can see, I'm in good health."

Merckx is widely recognised as the greatest-ever professional rider, retired from racing in 1978. He recently sold his frame building business and gone into semi-retirement.

However, he is a key part of the organisation that created the Tour of Qatar and watched carefully has his son Axel directed the Trek-Livestrong Under 23 team in this year's race.

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.