Team director Marc Bracke has been banned from cycling by the UCI after he sexually harassed riders.
Bracke, the director general and sports director of UCI Women’s Continental squad, Doltcini-Van Eyck-Proximus, was accused of harassment by riders inside his team, which resulted in the UCI opening an investigation into the Belgian’s conduct in March 2020.
In October last year, the UCI’s Ethics Commission found that Bracke had breached the Code of Ethics and the case was then passed to the governing body’s Disciplinary Commission, which has now confirmed that Bracke will be banned from the sport for three years.
The ethics commission took eight months to reach its decision.
In a statement released after the sanction was made public, the Doltcini team said that Bracke denies any wrongdoing and will appeal the decision.
Announcing its decision on Wednesday (June 23), the UCI said: “The Disciplinary Commission has therefore ordered the suspension of Mr Bracke from any role in cycling with immediate effect for a period of three years. As an additional measure and a condition of being granted a new licence after the period of suspension, Mr Bracke must take part in a harassment awareness programme delivered by a recognised professional institution.
“This decision sets an important precedent when it comes to the fight against sexual harassment. It is essential for the well-being of athletes that they can have confidence in the institutions and feel free to report any form of abuse.
“The UCI supports all people wishing to denounce such acts, whether they are victims or witnesses of conduct that does not conform to our federation’s rules of conduct.”
The investigation into Bracke started after riders Marion Sicot and Sara Youmens made formal complaints about Bracke, accusing him of requesting images of them in their underwear.
Sicot, who tested positive for EPO in 2019 and was subsequently banned, previously said that she had felt under pressure from Bracke to perform on the bike, arguing that her doping suspension should be reduced because of her treatment by Bracke.
In the team statement, Doltcini said: “Marc Bracke has never been heard in this case and not one of his universal human rights, including the right to defend himself, have in no way been respected.
“In the complete dossier, there is not once act by and not one word from Marc Bracke that suggests any sexual intention towards Marion Sicot.”
“It’s clear that this is not a fair trial. For that reason Marc Brack will appeal at [The Court of Arbitration for Sport].”
Bracke has previously admitted that he demanded regular photos of Sicot in a bikini, but said that: “This is a practice that was normal in earlier times - many people inside cycling know that.”
Sicot’s doping ban, which was reduced from four years to two, ends next month as she will be allowed to race again from July 19.
The UCI said it has introduced a number of new measures to protect riders in the wake of the Bracke investigation, including the appointment of an ‘Integrity and Education Manager,’ who will run a system for reporting harassment and abuse. The UCI also plans to speed up the disciplinary process in Code of Ethics violation cases.
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