Methadone overdose linked to death of surfing star

Andy Irons taking on the big waves at Piha in 2006. Photo / Dean Purcell
Andy Irons taking on the big waves at Piha in 2006. Photo / Dean Purcell

Mark Occhilupo couldn't stop crying and fellow surfing stars were in shock as they battled to comprehend the death of three-time world champion Andy Irons.

One of the sport's greatest athletes, 32-year-old American Irons was found dead in a hotel room in Dallas, Texas, two days after withdrawing from the world tour event in Puerto Rico because of severe illness.

Staff at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, reportedly found the Hawaiian's body and called airport police.

Local officials said the cause of death was not immediately known but Hawaii's Star Advertiser reported that his death was being investigated as a possible overdose of methadone, citing information provided by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office.

The newspaper reported methadone was found inside a container of a prescription drug called zolpidem, commonly used for insomnia, while methadone is a powerful controlled substance used for pain.

The container, as well as other medications, was found on a nightstand, the medical examiner said. An autopsy was due to be held today.

This year's Tahiti contest winner Irons is survived by his wife Lyndie Dupuis, who is due to give birth to their first child, a boy, next month.

The Irons family said he'd been on his way home to the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Shattered world tour colleagues planned to honour the popular Irons - the 2002, 2003 and 2004 world champion - with a paddle out this morning at the Rip Curl Search event site at Middles Beach, Puerto Rico.

They were undecided whether to continue the contest with Australian Daniel Ross among those keen to do so in tribute to his "hero".

Irons failed to show for his first round heat on Saturday because of sickness, and tournament backer Rip Curl said he was immediately seen by a doctor.

Bed-ridden, Irons was unable to compete in the second round on Sunday and his management told AAP they arranged to get him off the island, fearing he may have dengue fever.

Association of Surfing Professionals chief executive Brodie Carr struggled to fight back tears as he described how the tour was overcome with sorrow.

"We're all deeply, deeply saddened and our thoughts go out to all his family and friends and it's a sad day for surfing when one of our tribesman and friends has been lost," said Carr.

"Andy and Lyndie and [brother] Bruce and all the Irons family, they're all our family. We've travelled with them and lived with them for years and for the guys on tour they've lost a brother today."

ASP and Rip Curl suspended the tour event and were to discuss with surfers whether they were comfortable with the contest continuing.

A shaken Ross said he still wanted to proceed.

"He's been my hero for 10 years. I can't believe it, we've just been walking around in circles," Ross said.

"He was a champion bloke, loved him, he was a hilarious guy on tour.

"Whoever ends up on that podium after this event is going to be crying. Hopefully there's a big swell come up, some great waves and that'd be a great way to honour him. We'll dedicate it to him."

Retired world champion Occhilupo, who was in the Billabong stable with the 20-time tour event winner, said Irons had previously contracted dengue fever on a trip to Bali and the fever would come back when he was rundown.

"I just broke down," Occhilupo told Fox Sports. "He was such a vibrant, lovely person to be around. One of my best mates. It's really, really heart wrenching."

- AAP

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