Mon, 07 Mar 2005


Maradona undergoes weight-loss surgery

Associated Press, Bogota

Diego Maradona successfully underwent stomach surgery at a clinic in Colombia on Saturday to reduce his ballooning waistline, his doctor said.

"The operation was carried out without any problems," Francisco Holguin told The Associated Press by telephone. "The patient is back in his room, has woken up, and will leave the clinic in three days or so."

Holguin said the operation to staple the 44-year-old Argentine's stomach, also known as a gastric bypass, lasted two hours. The surgery reduces the stomach's capacity for holding food and bypasses part of the small intestine, forcing the patient to eat less.

Since quitting professional soccer in 1997, Maradona has grown unrecognizably fat as he struggled to overcome cocaine addiction at a clinic in Cuba.

Holguin earlier this week said Maradona must show discipline, change his eating habits and exercise more.

"The patient must understand that the postoperative stage is critical, that he must submit to very strict dietary measures," Holguin said.

Maradona had initially denied rumors that he had traveled to Cartagena on the Caribbean coast in early February to explore a weight-loss operation, saying he simply wanted to rest.

But Holguin later acknowledged that experts had been performing medical tests on Maradona at Cartagena's Medigel Servise clinic, and deemed him a candidate for the operating table.

Doctors say patients who undergo a stomach staple loose around 80 percent of their excess fat within 12 to 18 months - provided they stick to a rigorous diet.

Maradona briefly returned to Argentina before returning to Colombia on Tuesday. He has not spoken to reporters since his return, but delighted fans who camped out outside his apartment.

Maradona has been hospitalized repeatedly over the last four years because of severe health problems brought on by drug abuse.

In 2000, FIFA chose Maradona and Pele as the sport's greatest players. In his 20-year career, Maradona led Argentina to the World Cup title in 1986 and the final in 1990