Polish Cycling Federation accused of sexual misconduct and corruption, with eight board members resigning

The UCI is keeping a close eye over an unstable Polish Cycling Federation, which has seen eight of its nine board members resign amid claims over the last few months of sexual misconduct and corruption.

Cycling’s international governing body, the UCI, wrote to the federation at its BGŻ Arena headquarters in Pruszków and published a statement on its website on Thursday evening expressing its concern.

“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has learned from the news that there has been a recent audit reporting serious allegation of sexual misconduct towards riders as well as financial malpractice,” the statement read.

“With the athlete’s welfare at the core of its mission, the UCI wishes to reiterate its commitment to protecting riders against abuse of any form and at all levels.

“As a result, the UCI has strongly encouraged the Polish Cycling Federation to cooperate with the Polish Ministry of Sport and Tourism and the public authorities to ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to restore good governance and credibility at the federation.”

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The inquiry comes just one month after UK Anti-Doping ended its review of Team Sky and British Cycling over malpractice and sexism claims. With Poland, the UCI remains vigil.

Newly appointed UCI president, David Lappartient has written to the Polish Federation President Dariusz Banaszek about the “serious allegations”.

“I have to reiterate that the UCI wishes to shed light on the serious allegations,” said Lappartient. “To date, I have not received any evidence supporting the fact that the current administration of the Polish Cycling Federation would bear no responsibility whatsoever in connection with the said allegations.

“Consequently, I strongly encourage the Polish Cycling Federation to closely cooperate to ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to restore good governance and credibility at national level in cycling.”

Poland runs the WorldTour stage race Tour of Poland each year and supports many top-level cyclists, including 2014 world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky). The allegations involve members of the federation and cyclists forced to pass along their prize money.

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Former federation president Piotr Kosmala alleged misconduct by an unnamed leader. In an interview with sportowefakty.wp.pl, he said that an executive committed sexual assaults against members, some of which involved minors.

He also explained that cyclists were forced to pay 20 to 50 per cent of their prize money back to the federation.

Polish federation officials have denied accusations of sexual assault and rape.

However, the federation cannot escape fallout from the accusations. Sponsor Orlen, a state-run oil refiner, reportedly withdrew its financial backing and the Ministry of Sport said a complete executive board shake-up is in order.

Within a week, eight of nine board members resigned. Only Dariusz Banaszek remains at the BGŻ Arena, saying that he will speak on December 22 at an extraordinary meeting.

Banaszek has since publicly exchanged accusations with Sports Minister Witold Bańka. Next week, the Physical Culture, Sports and Tourism Commission will hear both the sports minister and federation president.