Deceuninck-QuickStep say Keisse incident was meant as 'a joke'

UCI: 'Improper gestures are detrimental to the reputation of our sport'

The Deceuninck-QuickStep team have responded to the incident involving Iljo Keisse and a waitress ahead of stage 2 of the Vuelta a San Juan, insisting Keisse's actions were meant as a joke and that he has apologised. The UCI, meanwhile, stated that "improper gestures are detrimental to the reputation of our sport," though did not confirm whether or not it is considering taking action against the Belgian. 

Keisse was the subject of a police complaint on Monday after feigning a sexual act behind a waitress who was posing for a photo with the QuickStep riders outside her cafe.

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He is currently at the team hotel in San Juan ahead of stage 3 and is expected to make a statement at 1pm local time. The race organisers have so far declined to comment on the incident. 

Keisse, 36, was photographed with his hands behind is head and his hips thrust forwards, with the woman claiming he made contact with her. "I am very angry. They disrespected me; I was working, I asked for a photo and they disrespected me. I already spoke with my lawyers to see what we can do," she told local newspaper Telesol Diario.

Ahead of Keisse's statement, the Deceuninck-QuickStep team responded to the incident, suggesting the matter had been resolved. 

"Iljo explained himself and apologised deeply," said a team spokesperson, according to Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. "The pose was meant as a joke, but now he feels very bad about it. After his apologies, the case is without consequences."

In a separate statement to Spanish newspaper Marca, it was suggested Keisse might be punished internally. "It was a joke, one which he shouldn't have made, but one that doesn't go beyond a warning or a fine."

The team would not issue any further comment on Tuesday ahead of Keisse's statement. 

Contact by Cyclingnews, the UCI did not comment on Keisse's actions but set out its position that ‘improper gestures’ betray the values of the sport.

"The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) reminds riders and their teams of the need to act responsibly and appropriately at all times," said a UCI spokesman. "Improper gestures or remarks are detrimental to the image and reputation of our sport, and betray the values we uphold. Riders and all licence-holders must act as professionals, whether racing or not, whether in their own country or abroad."

Article 12.4.017 of the UCI’s discipline and procedures document states that those subject to the regulations "must behave in accordance with the principles of trustworthiness, integrity and fair play", and that they are in breach of those regulations if they "behave in such a manner as to harm the image, reputation or interests of cycling or the UCI".

Under these regulations, Keisse could be referred to the disciplinary commission by the UCI, though it did not confirm if this action would be taken.

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