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Men's Olympic Mountain Bike Update
The Olympic men's mountain bike race this weekend has been flung wide open by the positive doping test that has forced world champion Filip Meirhaeghe to quit the sport in disgrace.

The 33-year-old Belgian returned a positive finding to the blood-boosting substance EPO (erythropoietin) in June and immediately announced his retirement.

"I took EPO for the first time in my career seven weeks ago during a training camp in Austria. I absolutely did not want to fail at the Olympics, which were my ultimate goal," Meirhaeghe admitted.

"As soon as I heard the positive result I knew it was the end of my career."

Meirhaeghe was a strong favourite for the Olympic gold medal having won three of six World Cups and his absence opens up the men's race which will be contested by 50 riders.

It will be the third staging of the mountain bike race with Dutchman Bart Brentjens winning the inaugural Olympic event in Atlanta and Frenchman Miguel Martinez winning in Sydney.

Martinez will defend his title in Athens after only returning to the sport following an unsuccessful experiment with road racing.

Belgium will look to Roel Paulissen, who won the year's second World Cup and was beaten by Meirhaeghe in the first, as their major hope for gold.

Paulissen is ranked second in the world ahead of Frenchman Julien Absalon and German Lado Fumic.

Top Swiss rider Christoph Sauser and the 2000 bronze medallist and European champion Jose Antonio Hermida of Spain are other medal chances.

Australia's hopes rest with Josh Fleming and national champion Sid Taberlay from Tasmania.

At 24, Taberlay is an up and comer in mountain biking but he has one top 10 World Cup finish to his name this year, coming ninth in the event in Spain.

In contrast, Fleming is an old hand, having made his first Australian team in 1996.

He won the World Cup event in Canada earlier this year.

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