The father of the girls assaulted by Mathieu van der Poel at the World Championships has said the Dutch rider had a right to get angry, but not to do what he did.
The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider was taken to Kogarah Police Station the night before the World Championships men’s elite road race in Australia, after he was involved in an altercation with two teenage girls, who had been knocking on his hotel room door. He was charged with two counts of common assault and granted conditional bail.
Van der Poel’s court appearance was initially scheduled to take place on Tuesday, but was brought forward at the request of his lawyer to allow for his flight home on Monday. He was fined $1,500AU (£910) and given permission to return to Europe.
On Saturday evening, a statement from New South Wales police revealed that a 27-year-old man, later revealed to be Van der Poel, had been arrested at a hotel in Sydney. “It’s further alleged the man then pushed both teenagers, with one falling to the ground and the other being pushed into a wall causing a minor graze to her elbow,” the statement said.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia (opens in new tab) this week, the girls' father, John, said: "He's got every right to get angry, but not to do what he did."
"They're tiny little girls, and he's massive," he said. "We went to the hospital on Sunday and I'm taking her to the psychologist because she's scared."
"She's worried she's in trouble and has done something wrong because some people are blaming her and me, saying it was the girls' fault and I'm a bad parent, but it was the school holidays - what kids at that age are going to bed at nine o'clock?"
"They are in trouble" over the incident, however, he added.
He continued: "If I assaulted children, I'd be locked up in jail for a year because I can't afford bail. Child abuse is a big thing."
Speaking to the media upon his return to Europe, Van der Poel apologised and said he should not have acted as he did.
"Of course I'm sorry, I'm wrong too," he told Het Nieuwsblad. “I admit that honestly. I shouldn't have done that. I should have done it differently. Unfortunately, it did happen and I'm trying to put it behind me, and look ahead to what's to come.”
However, he also insisted: “Anyone who knows me knows that I have never hurt anyone. There's a lot of stories going around about pushing and stuff, that's absolutely not true and that's not what happened.”
“I should have informed someone, the front desk or something, anyway. It was just getting late and I wanted to sleep,” he continued. “I thought I'd fix it myself, which ended up being completely wrong. Unfortunately, I can't change it anymore."
Despite the arrest, Van der Poel took the start line in the road race, but withdrew after just 30 kilometres of racing.
On Monday evening, his Alpecin-Deceuninck team released a short statement and is also awaiting further information.
“We have taken note of the events that took place in Wollongong in the past 48 hours. Needless to mention everyone loses here, and we can only regret that,” the statement said.
“Initially, our focus was on providing legal assistance on site and on helping Mathieu van der Poel to return home quickly. Now that has happened, we want to get a clear picture of the course of events, through inspection of the complete file (we don’t have the court documents yet) and a conversation with Mathieu van der Poel and those involved at Team NL. Based on this, we will determine which further steps to take.
“We would like to emphasise that respect for others, inside and outside the peloton, is and always has been a core value of Alpecin-Deceuninck. That is why we want to follow up on this in an appropriate way. Only then will team Alpecin-Deceuninck and Mathieu van der Poel communicate about this again.”
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