What’s Eating Brock Sellards?

Brock Sellards has been through the ringer this year. Since he came back from the Bercy Supercross in November of last year, the Ohio native has been battling a virus called Epstein Barr (a virus that affects your immune system). Very few doctors know how to treat the virus. A lesson Brock has learned all to well this year.

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TransWorld Motocross: You have been ill now since the beginning of the supercross season. When did you learn that you had the Epstein Barr virus?

Brock Sellards: Actually I caught the virus when I was coming back from the Bercy SX race in France. When I came back from France, I got really sick. I went to a local doctor out in Temecula California. He gave me a shot and a prescription, and told me I was too sick to race at the time. He also told me I should be better in a couple of days and that the shot and the pills should kick right in. Needless to say, I did not get any better. So I went back to that same doctor, after I finished my prescription and told him, “It’s been three weeks and I am still sick.” He put me on another prescription, for another two weeks, and I still did not get any better. Then, I went to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. I told him that my nose and throat are what’s giving me the problem–I cant breath when I ride. My throat was sore all of the time. I felt like there was no way I was going to get rid of my sore throat. Every time I thought it went away, it came back. At this time, I was getting half of the oxygen of a normal person. It’s a lot of the same stuff Travis Pastrana went through.

TWMX: I was just going to say, how what you have, parallels Travis, and the illness he went through.

BS: I was actually staying with Travis for a while. We got to talking, and it was funny, what he went through–I went through three weeks later. Anyway, back to the story. I was still trying to ride through all of this, and I kept getting run down. As soon as I started feeling better, I would get sick again. Everyday, I would get half-way through the day. I would be so exhausted; I would have to take a nap. That, plus the fact that I would keep getting sick, I thought that there might be something wrong with my immune system. Around the time I won Anaheim three, Sharon Richards, from OMS, hooked me up with an internist. That’s someone who specializes in studying your internals. I had some blood work done and she gave me another prescription, more antibiotics and another shot! It was seriously ridiculous how many prescriptions I had filled. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on antibiotics in the last six months!

TWMX: The outdoor season had to be coming up fast. Then what did you do?

BS: I went back to the ear, nose, and throat specialist, and told them nothing was working. It got to the point that I was getting sinus pressure that was messing with the equilibrium in my ear, and I would get dizzy whenever I rode. I saw Travis Pastrana go through this same thing. I saw him when we were at Castillo’s ranch endoing every jump on the track. He had the same symptoms as I did. As soon as I would get my heart rate up, I was done. It was like the track would be coming at me at 100mph. I could not time, or judge anything. At one point, I went out and raced a heat race in this condition. I should have quit, but in the six years I have been a pro I have never quit a race. When I came in from the race, I was so bad, if I would have stopped; I would have fallen over just like Pastrana did. I was done, I could barely see, I could barely breathe. It was the closest I have ever come to passing out, without passing out. It took me a long time before I could get my breath back, to where I could start focusing again. It was crazy, I was in the best shape of my life, and every time I would get sick, I could not do anything for a month and a half. I was resting to get better, and I would not get any better.

TWMX: So then, what were the doctors saying?

BS: I went back to the ear, noseand throat doctor and he told me that I should have this nose surgery–the same thing that Pastrana had done. I knew that there was nothing wrong with my sinuses, so I told him no way. He said, I might have this thing called Epstein Barr. Right away, I walked down stairs, and got the blood work done. While waiting for the results of that test, I went to Vegas and tried to race there, because I knew that Red Bull was coming to that race. I wanted to make sure they were pumped on our team. I should not have gone to that race, looking back on it.

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TWMX: While all of this is going on, what was Ron Heben’s and the rest of the KTM Red bull team’s take on the whole thing?

BS: What are you supposed to think? At first, Ron was frustrated with me. He thought I was being a baby about being sick. From the outside, I probably looked like a whiner. Inside, I was digging deep and trying as hard as I possibly could, when I should been resting. I told them, “You guys have no idea what I feel like. I have been racing my whole life, something is really wrong with me.” They would say, “If there is something wrong with you, your blood work would tell you.” Everyone was getting frustrated with me, and starting to give up on me, then I got the results of my blood work back. The doctor said, “You have the Epstein Barr virus.” Right after that, I heard from Jeff Stanton and Johnny O’Mara. They were telling me what a hard thing it is for an athlete to have a virus such as Epstein Bar. I found out that (Mickael) Pichon had it and he was out for six months. Greg Lemond had it, he came back and won the Tour De France the next year. It puts most people out for months at a time. I thought to myself, “I’ve already been out since January, it’s been five months!” The doctors can trace back to when you were the sickest point. Somehow, when I won the SX in Anaheim, I had a high level of the virus in me. It was unbelievable that I was able to win that race.

TWMX: So then, you decided to go out to Glen Helen to see if you could make a go of the Nationals?

BS: The doctor told me that you have already beat most of it. You could probably handle it. Well, I went out there, in the first moto I felt strong. I worked hard, and caught Grant (Langston) and got a fourth the first moto. When I went back to the truck, I felt drained so I took a nap. I could barley wake up! I could hardly mount the bike for he second moto–let alone race it. I went out there anyway and tried to do the second moto. I pushed it as long as I could, but I had to pull off. If I had went another lap, I would have fallen off the bike. When I got back to the truck, I was not even sweating, and it was a hot day at Glen Helen!

TWMX: So did you go back to the doctor after Glen Helen?

BS: Johnny O’ called me, and told me I had to go see this doctor in Orange County, California called Dr. Herman Falsetties, he specializes in Epstein Barr. Not a lot of doctors know how to deal with this virus. He had me do a Vo2 max fitness test, and the highest I could get my heart rate up to was up to 170bpm. My body would shut completely off when it reached that point. He told me, “Take the next month off and rest. You can go and do some riding to stay in shape, but if you get your heart over 160bpm, that virus is going to eat you up.” So I came back to Ohio, and did a lot of riding with my heart rate never going over 130. As Budds Creek was approaching, I felt good enough to race it. I had to get an okay from Dr. Falsetties, to do the race. He wanted more blood work done, so instead of flying out to California, I had the blood work done here in Ohio and sent it to him. Blood work has to be done special for Epstein Barr. He diagnosed it, and told me that there is no visible trace of the virus in my body. I was like “Oh my God, that is the best news I have ever heard in my life!”

TWMX: Epstein Barr–being a virus, never leaves your body does it?

BS: Exactly. It’s always in your body. It lays dormant, if you get sick, the lesson is–you don’t do anything! You have to get over your sickness before you do anything, or you will stay sick.

TWMX: So when you were lying around, trying to not do anything, what would you do?

BS: I just bought a 54-acre horse ranch, here in Ohio. I have more work than the man on the moon out here. I’ve got 50 acres of mowing, that takes about a week to do all by it’s self (laughter). I’ve done all sorts of stuff; I’ve built a track and two water trucks, so I have been busy with my hands. I rode every day; I just did not ride hard.

TWMX: So are you on for the rest of the season?

BS: For sure. I am good to go. The problem I have now is to get back into racing mode. There is nothing like racing to get you back in shape. From Glen Helen up until Budds Creek, I have not gone longer than 10 minutes on a track. After Budds, I was so sore from the racing, I took a week off just to let my body recuperate. I been working hard to get back in race shape, I am not there yet, but I feel a lot better than I have in a long time.

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TWMX: So have you been in talks with KTM, about the 2003 season?

BS: My contract with KTM expires at the end of the year. Bobby Moore, my agent, is handling all of my negotiations. He is talking to a lot of companies right now. I was a contender to win a supercross title, before all this happened to me. I got second in the outdoor season behind Carmichael in 1999, so I think everyone knows what I’m capable of doing. My options are open right now, so we will see what happens. I am interested in riding KTM’s, and Yamaha’s for 2003. I want to see how those new Kawasaki’s run; they have totally re-vamped that whole bike.

TWMX: I for one am looking forward to next year to see where you will land. If you can win a SX, being tore back like you were, next year should be interesting!

BS: This whole Epstein Barr thing has just made me stronger. When you go through something like this, you don’t realize how easy it is just to do what you need to do get results. I have been through hell, just to try to race every weekend, so I am pretty exited. I think that the rest of the season will go good, and I will be ready for next year.

TWMX dormant, if you get sick, the lesson is–you don’t do anything! You have to get over your sickness before you do anything, or you will stay sick.

TWMX: So when you were lying around, trying to not do anything, what would you do?

BS: I just bought a 54-acre horse ranch, here in Ohio. I have more work than the man on the moon out here. I’ve got 50 acres of mowing, that takes about a week to do all by it’s self (laughter). I’ve done all sorts of stuff; I’ve built a track and two water trucks, so I have been busy with my hands. I rode every day; I just did not ride hard.

TWMX: So are you on for the rest of the season?

BS: For sure. I am good to go. The problem I have now is to get back into racing mode. There is nothing like racing to get you back in shape. From Glen Helen up until Budds Creek, I have not gone longer than 10 minutes on a track. After Budds, I was so sore from the racing, I took a week off just to let my body recuperate. I been working hard to get back in race shape, I am not there yet, but I feel a lot better than I have in a long time.

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TWMX: So have you been in talks with KTM, about the 2003 season?

BS: My contract with KTM expires at the end of the year. Bobby Moore, my agent, is handling all of my negotiations. He is talking to a lot of companies right now. I was a contender to win a supercross title, before all this happened to me. I got second in the outdoor season behind Carmichael in 1999, so I think everyone knows what I’m capable of doing. My options are open right now, so we will see what happens. I am interested in riding KTM’s, and Yamaha’s for 2003. I want to see how those new Kawasaki’s run; they have totally re-vamped that whole bike.

TWMX: I for one am looking forward to next year to see where you will land. If you can win a SX, being tore back like you were, next year should be interesting!

BS: This whole Epstein Barr thing has just made me stronger. When you go through something like this, you don’t realize how easy it is just to do what you need to do get results. I have been through hell, just to try to race every weekend, so I am pretty exited. I think that the rest of the season will go good, and I will be ready for next year.

TWMX