The UCI has asked the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation to investigate a video showing a Deceuninck - Quick-Step sports director removing an item from Remco Evenepoel's pocket in the immediate aftermath of his Il Lombardia crash.
The video, which lit up Twitter after it was posted online earlier this week, shows sports director Davide Bramati attending to Evenepoel as he lay on the floor with a broken pelvis, then reaching into his back pocket and removing a white object and putting it into his own pocket.
Deceuninck - Quick-Step released a statement before the start of stage one of the Tour de France saying the item was a "small bottle containing nutrition products" and that they will co-operate with CADF if necessary.
Explaining the incident to Italian media in the aftermath of the video coming to light, Bramati told La Gazzetta dello Sport that he had removed food and a radio from Evenepoel's pockets to make the rider more comfortable when he was transferred to a stretcher.
"[It was] nothing illicit. I don't understand how one could even think that. I remember very well that they were frantic moments and that there was a need to remove the things that were on Remco's back because shortly afterwards he would have to lie on a stretcher," Bramati said.
"So, I took away his radio, gel, bar, the 'jar' of sugars, and in order not to leave them on the ground I put them in my pocket. There is another photo in which you can see his helmet being taken off. That's it."
UCI President David Lappartient has questioned another section of Bramati's statement where the former pro says he knew Evenepoel had crashed before arriving at the scene because his "data had stopped".
"The directeur sportif said he thought Evenepoel had fallen as no more data was being sent. What data are we talking about then?" Lappartient said, with only certain types of data permitted to be collected during a race. "After all, it is forbidden to send certain data. So, we are also looking at that point. If it is only about geographical positioning then it's something else, but sharing other data is not allowed."
Deceuninck - Quick-Step also addressed this point in their statement, saying Bramati knew Evenepoel had stopped due to the Velon device installed on the Belgian's bike.
"With regards to the transmission of data, we would also like to clarify that data such as live location is transmitted by the Velon device that was installed on bikes during Il Lombardia by Velon in partnership with the race organiser," the statement read. "The devices allow everyone, including the fans, to track and see rider data live in the race.
"We are confident that this will put an end to any further speculation surrounding the incident."
On Friday evening, Deceuninck - Quick-Step team boss Patrick Lefevere accused CADF of lacking neutrality due to the impending investigation.
"This is proof that CADF is not [neutral] because they said there are operating independently without UCI. This is clearly not true," he said.
Evenepoel is recovering well after his fall but remains in hospital in Belgium. He has managed to take his first steps, assisted by medical staff, and now expects an extended period off the bike.
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