A little more than a year ago, Argentinean Walter Perez received a hero's welcome when he returned to his home country after winning the Olympic gold medal in Beijing with Madison partner Juan Curuchet. On Tuesday, he found himself in a very different situation - one that landed him on the business end of a gendarme's baton.
Perez was one of approximately 60 cyclists training as a group on the Autopiste del Oeste, one of the few roads in Buenos Aires that riders consider safe enough to train on.
However, the road is a six-lane highway which, by law, is not open to pedestrians or cyclists. Because Buenos Aires roads are heavily congested and dangerous to ride on, the area's cyclists frequently risk being run off by the gendarmes in order to train on the highway
On Tuesday, the group with which Perez was riding was stopped by gendarmes, who, according to a witness, forced riders off the road with their batons.
Perez seemed to be singled out by the gendarmes. He was forcibly taken into custody, he told La Nacion. "The police took me away with aggression. They put handcuffs on me in order to stop me, which were orders from their higher authorities.
"I lost a day of training. I'm not used to being stopped by the police, this was the first time in 20 years of training on this road. I was scared and nervous. There were 60 other cyclists there and I'm the only one they took."
According to witnesses, one of the gendarmes took out a gun and threatened to use it to restore calm. "I have a video shot with my cellphone, and everyone has to see how these people treat athletes," momento24.com reported one of the riders as saying.
The video can be viewed here.
(Additional editorial assistance from Kirsten Robbins)
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