The French cycling federation has called on the UCI to investigate a Belgian women’s team over the allegations made by rider Marion Sicot.
Sicot, who tested positive for EPO last year, said she turned to doping because of the pressure she was put under by Doltcini-Van Eyck sports director Marc Bracke.
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The 27-year-old rider also alleged that Bracke would demand pictures of her in her underwear after he her called her “too fat.”
Team management have now released a statement responding to Sicot’s claims, denying she was put under pressure to dope.
National governing body Fédération Française de Cyclisme has now responded to Sicot’s allegations, calling for the UCI to launch an investigation into the practices of the Doltcini-Van Eyck squad.
The federation said: “Given the gravity of the accusations made by this rider, the president of the FFC decided to officially refer the president of the UCI to request than an investigation be launched into the practices of the team.
“Without prejudging anyone’s guilt, it is a matter of taking the necessary measures to shed light on it and helping to deter potential perpetrators of inadmissible acts.
“Far from excusing any doping practice, the French cycling federation recalls its intransigence towards any situation of violence or harassment and its determination to act with the utmost rigour to protect its athletes.”
Cycling’s international governing body, the UCI, has already opened two investigations into sexual assault at the women’s team, after two former riders came forward with claims against a soigneur.
The riders, Sara Youmans and Maggie Coles-Lyster alleged that they were sexually assaulted while riding for the team, formerly known as Lares-Waowdeals, when aged between 16 and 18.
French rider Sicot, who raced for Doltcini for two seasons, initially denied doping after testing positive for EPO at the French time trial championships in June 2019, blaming her menstrual cycle for the adverse result, but last week admitted taking performance enhancing drugs.
Sicot claims Bracke told her to sell two bikes at the end of the 2018 season in order to get her contract renewed.
She also said Bracke said she was “too fat” and made her take pictures in her underwear from the front and back every Monday morning “to be able to participate in the races.”
Sicot added that she turned to doping as she thought improved performances might get her respite from the DS.
In a statement provided to French television, Bracke said: “There was no secret contract. Marion Sicot literally came to plead to be on the team.
“I asked several times for photos of Marion to asses her physical condition. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word bikini.
“In the past, this was a common practice of a sports director. I hope the material you use is true.”
The team has since posted a 1,300-word statement on social media responding to Sicot’s allegations, denying that the team puts riders under pressure that would lead to doping, and claiming the team has high standards of privacy and stands against sexual abuse.
In their statement, the team admits that Bracke asked for pictures of Sicot to check on her weight, but also claims that this has been normal practice in teams in the past.
The squad said: “Marion Sicot also says she was not treated like the other riders. We do not understand nor accept this accusation. This is probably more the problem of Marion Sicot herself. When she was with the team she often separated herself from the other riders instead of being one of the team.
“We also confirm that our team and Marc Bracke are ready to fully collaborate in any investigation by the UCI or any other competent party, but regret that the trial of Marc Bracke seems to have been made already in the media before he has even had the slightest opportunity to defend himself.”