After weathering a firestorm of criticism from media and fans following their reaction to reports that rider Iljo Keisse had been the subject of a police report alleging abusive behaviour toward a local waitress at the Vuelta a San Juan, Deceuninck-QuickStep and Patrick Lefevere have issued an apology.
In the statement, sent to media under the auspices of 'Patrick Lefevere and the entire team', Deceuninck-QuickStep apologised for "events of the past few days" to the specific woman involved and to all women, fans, and sponsors. The team also pledged to implement "specific conduct training protocols for all riders and staff".
“The Team would like to make a sincere apology for the events of the past few days, firstly to the woman involved in this regrettable incident, and additionally to all women, fans, and sponsors," the team's statement read. "We don’t condone this type of behaviour. Our team’s core values include mutual respect, and that was not upheld in this situation. Iljo also personally acknowledges his mistake and takes full responsibility for his actions.
"As a team, we are aware that one of our main roles is to educate the riders and make sure they demonstrate respect for everyone. The events of these past days are something which we can – and already have – learned from, and for that very reason we have decided to implement in the near future specific conduct training protocols for all riders and staff to ensure our values and make sure this kind of thing won’t happen again.
"Again, we are very sorry to everyone affected by this regrettable incident.”
- San Juan woman files police complaint against Keisse
- Deceuninck-QuickStep say Keisse incident was meant as 'a joke'
- Keisse apologises for 'stupid moment' after woman files police complaint
- Vuelta a San Juan organisers expel Keisse after woman files police complaint
- Lefevere threatens to remove entire Deceuninck-QuickStep team from Vuelta a San Juan
- Deceuninck-QuickStep skip Vuelta a San Juan podium ceremony
- Keisse saga sparks tensions between QuickStep team and new sponsor Deceuninck
Keisse was the subject of a police complaint ahead of the race after feigning a sexual act behind a local café waitress who'd asked for a photo with the team. At first, the team played down the incident, though Keisse, who was fined 3,000 pesos, issued a statement apologising for his actions on Tuesday.
After appeals to the team to take disciplinary action fell on deaf ears, the race organisers expelled Keisse after the stage 3 time trial, causing an angry Lefevere to threaten to pull the whole squad from the race. They continued but were fined for skipping the post-stage podium ceremony on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Cyclingnews spoke with Jérôme De Bruycker, marketing manager for Europe at Deceuninck, who said the sponsor was concerned about Keisse's behaviour and the team's reaction to it, and they planned to meet with management when the team returned from South America.
"We do not agree with what happened there. This is not behaviour that we accept," De Bruycker told Cyclingnews.
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