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.
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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.”