The former manager of the Health Mate women’s cycling team has been suspended for three years by the UCI following allegations of harassment.
Patrick Van Gansen will be retroactively banned from April 16 2020 until December 31 2022, and will also have to complete a course on workplace sexual harassment should he want to be issued a new licence to work in cycling from 2023.
The UCI found that Van Gansen had violated its Code of Ethics during a formal investigation after a number of riders came forward to detail an “unsettling environment” that included “shouting, abuses of power, and unprofessionalism”.
Cycling’s governing body said the verdict “sets an important precedent” when it comes to sexual harassment within the sport.
“It is essential for athletes’ welfare that they trust the institutions and feel free to denounce harassment in all forms,” the UCI said.
“The UCI shall endeavor to support all persons wishing to report such actions whether they are victims or witness behaviour which is not compliant with our Federation’s rules of ethics.”
In a press release, the UCI went on to point out that since 2019 all staff members of UCI men’s and women’s teams have had to sign a document indicating they are aware of the code of conduct in the fight against cultures of harassment and abuse within teams.
The UCI is now looking to add a platform for whistleblowers to make it easier for individuals to report harassment. “There is still work to be done to fully fulfill our mission, but this decision marks a decisive step in the effective protection of athletes,” it said.
Last month, retired Belgian pro Tara Gins revealed she’d been refused work on a men’s team because of “inappropriate photos”, relating to pictures taken during a paid modelling shoot.
She also spoke out about being sexually assaulted during her racing days, asking why these perpetrators were able to have jobs within the sport while she was denied this particular role.