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Quinn Simmons' suspension lifted

HUY BELGIUM SEPTEMBER 30 Arrival Quinn Simmons of United States and Team Trek Segafredo during the 84th La Fleche Wallonne 2020 Men Elite a 202km stage from Herve to Mur de Huy flechewallone FlecheWallone on September 30 2020 in Huy Belgium Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images
Quinn Simmons of Trek-Segafredo during the 2020 La Fleche Wallonne (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Quinn Simmons' suspension by the Trek-Segafredo team has been lifted and he has begun his off-season training, with team boss Luca Guercilena highlighting the American as an important part of the team's plans for 2021.

Simmons was suspended at the end of September over social media posts, including the use of an emoji with black skin tone, that were labelled "divisive, incendiary, and detrimental" by his team. He was suspended "until further notice," with the team stating they would work together with their sponsors "to determine how we will move forward."

Simmons and Guercilena have both confirmed to Cyclingnews that the matter has now been resolved and that both parties are looking ahead to next season. 

According to Guercilena, the team clarified their position on the subject to Simmons, but "no further action" was taken. Further media training will be held during the team's first off-season training camp, which usually takes place in December.

"The situation is solved," Guercilena said, confirming that, "Quinn will attend the team camps and start the season as normal. 

"We are looking into next season and have Quinn as one of our top talented riders to perform at a higher level in 2021, focusing on races," he added.

Simmons did not wish to comment on the matter when contacted by Cyclingnews.

The 19-year-old, who jumped straight to the WorldTour this year after winning the junior road race at the Yorkshire World Championships, has begun his preparations for 2021. "Eating season is over. Time to get back to work," he wrote in a social media post last week on Instagram, with the hasthtag #roadtoroubaix, indicating that Paris-Roubaix will be a major target. 

That race was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Simmons' suspension, just after he had completed Flèche Wallonne, meant he missed out on the rest of what would have been his debut cobbled Classics campaign. 

Simmons also posted a video of himself in the gym with the caption 'starting back from zero, fitness so far away', and has since travelled from his home in Durango, Colorado to California to step up his training.

Simmons was suspended following his response to a post from cycling journalist and commentator José Been about the upcoming US election, in which she asked supporters of Donald Trump to stop following her on Twitter. The American responded by writing "bye", followed by an emoji of a hand with black skin tone waving.

The use of a black emoji by a white person online has been repeatedly highlighted as racist, and the term 'digital blackface' has been coined to describe its usage.

Trek-Segafredo moved quickly to announce Simmons' suspension for "conduct unbefitting a Trek athlete," and the rider himself apologised the next day. 

"To those who found the color of the emoji racist, I can promise that I did not mean for it to be interpreted that way. I would like to apologize to everyone who found this offensive as I strongly stand against racism in any form," he said in a formal apology. "To anyone who disagrees with me politically, that is fine. I won’t hate you for it. I only ask the same."

At the time, on the eve of the Giro d'Italia, Guercilena spoke to reporters at the race and said: "It shouldn’t be forgotten that these are the decisions and statements of a boy of 19 years of age, even if there are no excuses. We feel that we need to reflect carefully on the decisions that need to be taken. We’ll decide what will be done together with the company, which owns the team."

In their original statement, the team said they would "keep fans and the public informed as to the decisions made in the matter," but so far they have yet to make a public statement on the resolution that has been reached.