Investigation launched after Iranian para-cyclist dies following crash

A joint investigation has been launched after an Iranian Paralympics cyclist, Bahman Golbarnezhad, died following a crash in the men’s road race on Saturday

Iranian Paralympic cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad tragically died after suffering a fatal heart attack following a horrific crash in Rio.
Iranian Paralympic cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad tragically died after suffering a fatal heart attack following a horrific crash in Rio.

An investigation has been launched after an Iranian cyclist, Bahman Golbarnezhad, suffered a fatal heart attack following a horrific crash in the men’s C4/C5 road race in Rio on Saturday.

A joint investigation involving Rio 2016, the International Paralympic Committee, Rio police, medical authorities and cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, has been opened to establish the full circumstances of what was described as a tragic accident.

The 48-year-old from Shiraz became the first Paralympic athlete to die in the competition after he lost control on a descent 35km into the race, at 10.35am local time, the head of Iran’s national Paralympic committee (NPC) said.

Masoud Ashrafi, the head of the NPC, said Golbarnezhad “lost control and he hit the fence or wall”. Witness statements were being taken in an attempt to ascertain whether any other rider was involved and the exact circumstances of the accident.

The crash happened at a right-hand bend on Avenida Estado da Guanabara on the hilly Grumari circuit, a spokesman for the Rio 2016 organising committee said.

Golbarnezhad received immediate medical attention and initially presented good vital signs, despite having sustained a head injury and caused significant damage to his cycling helmet, the spokesman added. However, his condition deteriorated after he was transferred to an ambulance.

Golbarnezhad died following a second cardiac arrest – the first happened as he was transferred into the ambulance – on arrival at Unimed Rio hospital in Barra at 11.50am local time on Saturday.

The IPC president, Sir Philip Craven, said: “This is an absolutely tragic day for the Paralympic movement and also the Games here in Rio. The Paralympic family is united in grief at this horrendous tragedy, which casts a shadow over what have been great Paralympic Games.”

The UCI sports director, Piers Jones, defended the nature of the course and said full risk assessments had been carried out. The accident did not take place on the quickest section of the course.

Jones said: “The courses are designed to be competitive. All the cyclists here are experienced cyclists. And the levels of different functional ability are accounted for. There were several different courses being used for the para-cycling road races, which reflected the functional ability of each of the sport classes.”

Iran’s NPC had two requests: that Golbarnezhad’s body be released to be returned to his family and that a full investigation take place.

The IPC said the Iranian flag has been lowered to half-mast in the athletes’ village. The Paralympic flag will also be flown at half-mast in the Paralympic Village and at the Riocentro venue, where Iran play Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday in the sitting volleyball gold-medal match.

A period of silence will be held during Sunday night’s closing ceremony.