Marion Sicot believes that 'justice was done' upon receiving a reduced two-year suspension after the Agence Française de Lutte contre le Dopage (AFLD) took into consideration the details of her harassment case that was filed with the UCI Ethics Commission against former Doltcini-Van Eyck team manager Marc Bracke.
"[Marion Sicot] is relieved and happy to see that justice was done. Every athlete knows how incredibly hard it is to reduce or overturn a doping sanction, where the standard 4-year ban is so often applied, irrespective of any circumstances," said Sicot’s attorney, Madalina Diaconu.
Diaconu is handling Sicot's harassment case that was filed at the UCI Ethics Commission last March. In an email to Cyclingnews on Wednesday, she provided Sicot's reaction to AFLD's recent decision to hand her a reduced two-year suspension.
Sicot tested positive for EPO in a test carried out by the AFLD at the French time trial championships on June 27, 2019 and was provisionally suspended on July 18, 2019. She initially denied taking the banned substance but later admitted to it in an exclusive interview with Stade 2 that aired last March, revealing that she Googled 'purchase EPO' and then bought 10 vials of the substance through a Chinese website in May 2019. She said she took the drug on June 24.
Sicot requested a reduced suspension from the AFLD, the French anti-doping authorities, alleging that her decision to purchase and use EPO happened after she experienced months of psychological abuse by Bracke.
"As I said, and I repeat it, I deserve to receive a ban as I made a mistake, and by the way, I'm already paying for my act and serving my sentence, and I never tried to minimize my fault," Sicot told Cyclingnews in an interview in August.
"I spoke on TV mentioning all the details of my story because I have nothing to hide, but of course, I would like to have my ban reduced because what happened to me is not a banal doping story, but something with much more complexity."
L’Equipe reported that the AFLD’s Sanction Commission had initially suggested a four-year ban but upon consideration of her harassment case, reduced the ban to two years.
Sicot will be eligible to compete on July 19, 2021, and plans to resume cycling activities, according Diaconu.
"This is why this decision is a rare one - and good news for all athletes," Diaconu wrote on behalf of Sicot. "Because sport authorities finally send out the message that sexual harassment and its devastating consequences are serious issues, and that athletes must be protected against it. More importantly, the decision sends out the message that if the athletes speak out, they will be heard."
The UCI Ethics Commission opened its investigation into Doltcini-Van Eyck and Bracke after two riders, including Sicot, alleged Bracke requested photos of them in their "panties and bra" and "bikini".
According to Diaconu, Sicot's range of complaints alleged sexual harassment under aggravated circumstances and recidivism, including over 20 written demands by Bracke for nudity photos from Sicot wearing a "small bikini" or a "string bikini," taken from the front and rear angles. The allegations also included examples of sexist or allusive comments such as if she is married, has a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and if she sleeps alone, and embarrassing invitations to spend the night at his house while at a competition nearby.
The UCI announced last October that its Ethics Commission had determined that Bracke was guilty of violating the Code of Ethics following the formal complaints of harassment alleged by two female riders. The case is currently being reviewed by the UCI Disciplinary Commission, which is the body responsible for determining the sanction.
Cyclingnews has reached out to Bracke and the Doltcini-Van Eyck team for a comment regarding Sicot's allegations. However, neither have responded to our detailed messages.
Following Sicot’s allegations in March, Doltcini-Van Eyck team released a statement admitting that Bracke had demanded regular photos of Sicot in a bikini, but argued: "This is a practice that was normal in earlier times – many people inside cycling know that." At that time, the team also accused Sicot of pretending to be depressed and "making use of the actual #MeToo-mood" to get a shorter doping suspension.
Diaconu said that they were satisfied with the Ethics Commission's decision but that they regretted that there was limited communication between the UCI and the riders who file complaints during the procedures. [Cyclingnews understands that the person who files a complaint at the UCI Ethics Commission is not a party to the case - ed.]
"We are also looking forward to receiving the UCI Disciplinary Committee decision in the case of Mr. Bracke, so that justice can finally be complete," Diaconu wrote on behalf of Sicot on Wednesday.
"Finally, we hope that, following this case, the UCI will give greater attention to the victims' rights in such cases. For the moment, according to the UCI Regulations, victims do not have any participation in the proceedings concerning their own case. They are not informed of the decisions taken, other than by press releases. For the sake of athletes, this should change in the future."
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