DELHI: Australian star cyclist Mark Renshaw's fears of contracting dengue fever prompted his withdrawal from the Games on Sunday - barely 24 hours after a member of India's lawn bowls entourage was reportedly diagnosed with the potentially deadly illness., reports Sydney Morning Herald.
Renshaw, who earlier this year was struck down with Epstein-Barr virus, hinted last week that health concerns could force him to forgo the chance of Commonwealth Games gold in the men's road race next Sunday. His decision to pull out just hours before the opening ceremony created an opening for Michael Matthews, who last Friday won the under-23 road race world title in Geelong, on the Australian team.
''[Renshaw] had had an immune system problem in the past, Edwin [sic] Barr virus,'' said Steve Moneghetti, Australia's chef de mission. ''I think we've found a pretty adequate replacement in Michael Matthews. He's in pretty good current form.''
Renshaw's withdrawal came as Indian newspapers reported the first suspected case of dengue fever at the Games. An official with the Indian lawn bowls team left the athletes' village on Saturday, and was reportedly admitted to a local hospital with symptoms including fever and low blood pressure.
Local media claimed 85 more people had tested positive for dengue across Delhi in recent days, bringing to 3468 the number of confirmed cases here. Seven dengue-related fatalities have been confirmed this season.
Renshaw last week said: ''The problem is the mosquitoes and dengue fever. It's a bit of a worry. I was looking forward to [competing a the Commonwealth Games] until I came back here to Australia, and now the thought of going to India, and just the way it's been covered in Australia, it's pretty daunting.
''To be honest, now the whole British team has pulled out … the point comes where [you think] is it worth going when we are only going to be racing against India and a couple of these other countries. It's not going to be a 100 per cent strong field.''
Renshaw created headlines earlier this year when he was banished from the Tour de France for head-butting New Zealand rider Julian Dean during a frantic sprint to the line during stage 11. ''He head-butted Dean like in a keirin race,'' Tour technical director Jean-Francois Pescheux said at the time. ''This is cycling not fighting. Everybody could have ended up on their backs.''
Although Renshaw has withdrawn, the Australians are confident defending Commonwealth Games gold medallist Mathew Hayman will compete in Delhi, despite previously expressing reservations about travelling to India due to security concerns.
Matthews said he happy to serve as a domestique (support rider) for Hayman, Chris Sutton and Allan Davis on the 167 kilometre Delhi course. ''I thought about whether I would go for a bit, but it's the Commonwealth Games and not just another race,'' Matthews told the Canberra Times. ''I heard the course up there is pretty flat, and I think I'll be doing a job for the other guys.''