By Jonny Long
The UCI have opened a formal investigation into allegations of abuse and inappropriate behaviour against the general manager of Health Mate-Cyclive, Patrick Van Gansen.
Three riders have left the women's team in the last 12 months and lodged formal complaints with the UCI Ethics commission, who will now look into the case, against their manager.
Cycling News' investigation into the situation has revealed a further seven riders who have come forward to detail an "unsettling environment" that included "shouting, abuses of power, and unprofessionalism."
The UCI's Ethics Commission will conduct written and oral questioning of the parties involved as part of the investigation, as the information presented to it has indicated that breaches of the UCI Code of Ethics may have been committed.
The three former Health Mate Ladies riders who separately filed complaints against Van Gansen were Esther Miesels, Sara Mustonen and the father of Chloë Turblin. Five riders from the team wrote an open letter, published in Dutch newspaper WielerFlits, that appeared to corroborate the experiences of the three who made formal complaints.
The allegations against Van Gansen include that he was verbally aggressive and made sexually inappropriate comments towards riders.
One rider, who once raced for the team and wished to remain anonymous, revealed to Cycling News that when she arrived at the team house in Ekeren, Belgium, she found that Van Gansen was the owner and also lived their with the riders.
"He got up in his underwear, and there was no absolute privacy," she said. "I'm a very serious person. I like to just go and do what I have to do, I got up and trained, but he was always there, always in a bad mood most of the time for one thing or another."
Van Gansen said: "I never walk around in underwear! I am always dressed and this is the code we ask also from the ladies if they come out of the room or if they are not on the third floor where they have a complete living room where I never come."
The rider in question said she was not paid to race on the team and that Van Gansen said to her in order to be paid she should have cooked for him, washed his cars and cleaned his house.
Van Gansen said he did have an arrangement with one rider to do some household work in exchange for €200 a month as he didn't have the money to pay the rider to be a part of the team.
The manager has said he is working with a lawyer and intends to take legal action against the riders who have levelled the allegations against him.
Van Gansen has said he has no intention of stepping down as manager of the Health Mate Ladies team and will discuss with those who finance the team, which operates on a budget of €120,000 annually, whether the team will continue in 2020.
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Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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