‘Possible end of career for Sonny Colbrelli’

‘Possible end of career for Sonny Colbrelli’

Tuesday 5 April 2022 at 18:10

Sonny Colbrelli will not be allowed to race in his home country Italy in the future – if he still returns as a cyclist – according to the French sports newspaper L’Équipe. An Italian law prohibits top athletes with a defibrillator – such as Colbrelli – from participating in sports competitions.

Under this law, introduced in 2017, athletes with a defibrillator are no longer allowed to participate in competitions in Italy. The question is whether we will see Colbrelli again in the peloton, within sports medical circles there is no belief in a return, after the Italian collapsed after the first stage in the Tour of Catalonia last month. Rescuers then rushed into action and managed to bring the 31-year-old Italian back to consciousness with the help of a heart massage and a defibrillator.

Colbrelli was then taken to the hospital in Girona where several investigations were already carried out to determine the cause of his heart rhythm disorder. The European champion has now undergone a successful procedure in his home country Italy in which a subcutaneous defibrillator was implanted. This defibrillator is supposed to remedy his arrhythmias.

In Italy, however, it is not allowed to participate in sports competitions on Italian territory with such a device. Colbrelli’s story is reminiscent of Christian Eriksen’s. The Danish footballer was hit by a heart attack at the last European Championship and had to leave his Italian club Internazionale after having a defibrillator implanted under the skin. Eriksen thus returned to Great Britain, where he now plays football again for Premier League club Brentford.

Is Colbrelli’s career over six months after his win in Roubaix? – photo: Cor Vos

If Colbrelli wants to return to the cycling peloton in the future, he will have to remove the Italian races (such as Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and the Giro d’Italia) from his calendar, including any European or World Championships on Italian soil. The UCI International Cycling Union cannot normally go against a country’s national law.

“Not only does he endanger himself, but also fellow riders”
Kris Van der Mieren, sports doctor and affiliated with the Belgian cycling federation, asks himself in conversation with The newspapaer wonder whether Colbrelli will get the chance to only drive outside Italy from now on. “Colbrelli will have to undergo a medical examination again,” says the sports doctor. “It will only be possible to obtain a license if there is a clear go from sports cardiology. My gut feeling is that this is going to be a big problem. Not only does Colbrelli endanger himself, but also his fellow riders.”

A football player who goes into cardiac arrest on the field and whose defibrillator is activated normally does not harm his teammates. However, a cyclist who falls at a high speed in full course can cause a major crash and endanger not only himself, but also other riders. No doctor would ever want something like that on his conscience. In addition, a defibrillator can be activated in the event of a severe impact, such as a fall on a bicycle race.

Finally, Van der Mieren points to the guideline of the European Society of Cardiology, a European professional association in cardiology. It advises patients with an implanted defibrillator not to participate in sports where there is a risk of collision. If the UCI follows these guidelines, Colbrelli’s career is over.