BMC Racing‘s star Philippe Gilbert risks jail time for pepper spraying two men during a confrontation on Friday near Liège, Belgium. A report also said that the men were not drunk as Gilbert and his teammate Loïc Vliegen had claimed.
Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad reported that police in Verviers confirmed yesterday that the two men in the car were not drunk.
It also said that the spray is considered a weapon in Belgium and could bring the former world champion one month to five years in jail and a fine of 100 to 25,000 Euro (£80 to £20,000).
Gilbert normally trains in France and in Monaco, where he lives and the spray is not prohibited. He was home to prepare for the upcoming Ardennes Classics – the Amstel Gold Race, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
BMC Racing released a statement on Saturday that said, “Two intoxicated men in a car [targeted Gilbert and Vliegen]. One of the men stepped out of the car and acted aggressively towards Vliegen and Gilbert.”
Gilbert said of the incident:”Loïc and I had been riding for five and a half hours and were on our way home from doing a recon for Liège-Bastogne-Liège when a car drove at us full gas from behind while we were in Theux which is when the altercation started. I will cooperate fully with the police with their investigation.”
However the driver of the car has since filed a complaint against Gilbert, reported another Belgian newspaper, Het Laatste Nieuws, claiming the incident did not take place as BMC stated.
“It started on a road outside the city,” said the driver. “Three cyclists took the full width of the road. Only after a few kilometres, I managed to pass.
“When I honked, they insulted me. I slowed down and the riders came next to me. I wanted to talk to them, I had my window open, but the youngest [Vliegen] of them tried to hit me.”
He said he drove on and stopped in Theux, where the incident continued. “They beat us and used a spray. Contrary to the BMC press release, I didn’t hit them and I was not drunk.”