L39ION and Best Buddies riders suspended for remainder of season for post-race brawl

Williams, Hernandez and Sierra penalized for 'acts of violence among riders' and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Justin Williams. L3gion
(Image credit: @nickwilsonphoto)

In July, a physical fight broke out at the American Criterium Cup race in Salt Lake City between Best Buddies riders Michael Hernandez and Robert Sierra and L39ion's frontman Justin Williams. 

The riders received fines and a 72-hour suspension on the spot, while USA Cycling launched an investigation into the incident with potential further sanctions.

The results of that investigation were released today, concluding that all three riders violated USA Cycling's rules prohibiting acts of violence among riders and unsportsmanlike conduct. 

As part of the investigation, USA Cycling officials interviewed all three riders as well as witnesses and reviewed video footage.

All three riders were offered reduced sentences if they accepted the investigation results and subsequent suspension and served community service in conjunction with those suspensions. 

Hernandez and Sierra accepted USA Cycling’s offer, with Sierra accepting a one-month suspension with eight hours of community service, and Hernandez accepting a three-month suspension with sixteen hours of community service. 

Williams requested a hearing, as allowed by USA Cycling’s policy, in which as a panel heard Williams’ case yet upheld the suspension. Williams accepted his penalty of a five-month suspension.

“USA Cycling has zero tolerance regarding violence, instigation of violence, and bullying. The behavior at the Salt Lake City Criterium is inexcusable,” said Brendan Quirk, CEO & President of USA Cycling. 

“We are working with the race organizers of the American Criterium Cup to increase our scrutiny of rider behavior in the peloton, including the use of video replay officials at the event. And while this will allow us to better identify dirty riding in real time, this doesn’t replace the need for riders to show basic respect for each other.”

The brawl had started before the race had even ended in Salt Lake City on July 16. In the final lap of the race, Hernandez trailed L39ion's teammate Cory Williams. When Hernandez attempted to overtake Cory Williams into the first corner, there was slight contact between the two riders, which forcing Hernandez into the curb and resulted in a loss of momentum.

Annoyed with the incident, Hernandez confronted Cory Williams after the race, while L39ion rider Ty Magner celebrated his win.  Justin Williams stepped in and a fight soon broke out.

Hernandez claimed that he was merely going over to talk to Cory Williams about what had occurred during the race, but that he was met with aggression and that Justin Williams threw the first punch. 

Cory Williams went on social media to state that Hernandez had been waiting for him at the finish line in order to fight him. 

"What should have been a moment of celebration, and could have been an opportunity for him to apologize and move on, turned into us responding to his uncontrolled aggression and resulting in us defending ourselves," he said. 

In response to the fight, L39ion pull both the men's and woman's teams from competition the next day, stating they felt it was necessary to keep their riders safe and away from 'uncontrolled acts of aggression'. 

Justin Williams meanwhile went on social media to issue an apology, stating:

"In my fifteen years of racing professionally, this past weekend marked a low point for me. I’m very sorry for my unacceptable behavior that is not representative of me, my team, or my partners. For a brief moment I lost sight of the bigger picture, and I let my emotions get the best of me.

"This will not happen again. I support and am cooperating with USA Cycling officials to review this matter, and look forward to putting this behind me with perspective and a renewed commitment to growing this incredible sport for our fans and communities across the United States. I also look forward to collaborating with USA Cycling officials on opportunities to create a safer, more accountable peloton. Thank you all for your continued support, I look forward to seeing you on the road.

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