Marion Sicot has filed a formal complaint against Doltcini-Van Eyck manager Marc Bracke with the UCI Ethics Commission, alleging six rule violations concerning sexual harassment, discrimination, violating contract rules and fraud. In an interview with Cyclingnews, the former rider confirmed that she has also filed a separate criminal complaint alleging sexual harassment with her local authorities in France.
"Yes, I filed a penal [criminal] complaint against my former manager for sexual harassment on May 12. The complaint has been registered at the prosecutor of Montargis. The complaint is based on the sexual harassment that I have endured, and that is banned by the Article 222-33 of the French penal code," Sicot told Cyclingnews.
The Frenchwoman has hired legal representation, by two separate attorneys in the corresponding jurisdictions, to advise her regarding her complaints to the UCI Ethics Commission in Switzerland and her criminal complaint in France.
Sicot tested positive (opens in new tab) for EPO last June, and although she initially denied using the drug, she later admitted to it in an exclusive interview with Stade 2 (opens in new tab) that aired in March. She has requested a reduced suspension alleging that her decision to purchase and use the drug happened after she experienced months of psychological harassment and abuse by Bracke.
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Stade 2 obtained a series of text-based messages between Sicot and Bracke, which show Bracke requesting front and back photos of her in a bikini. He also asked her to keep it a secret. Sicot said that Bracke requested these images every Monday beginning in November 2018 to keep track of her weight, that he thought she was fat, and that without the photos, he would not include her on the roster to compete in the races. The series of text-based messages were published in a detailed report on Cyclisme Dopage (opens in new tab).
Cyclingnews reached out to Bracke by phone, and subsequent email, for a comment regarding Sicot's allegations; however, he did not respond to our detailed message before publishing this story. In March, Doltcini-Van Eyck team released a statement (opens in new tab)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." The team also accused Sicot of pretending to be depressed and "making use of the actual #MeToo-mood" to get a shorter doping suspension.
Sicot confirmed to Cyclingnews that she filed a sexual harassment complaint against Bracke with her local law enforcement (opens in new tab) in Orleans, Loiret, in France on May 12. She said that the COVID-19 pandemic prevented her from filing the complaint sooner. L'Equipe reported in July that her complaint, which was transferred to the Montargis, Loiret, prosecutor's office, led to the opening of an investigation (opens in new tab).
Her criminal complaint centres around Article 222-33 of the French penal code, which was updated in 2012. It is defined as: "sexual harassment is the imposition of a person, repeatedly remarks or behavior of a sexual nature that is impairing its dignity because of their character or degrading humiliating, or create a situation against her intimidating, hostile or offensive." It is punishable by two years of imprisonment and a fine of €30,000.
"The prosecutor of Montargis asked to open an investigation to make the file move forward," said Sicot, who is scheduled to meet again for a follow-up interview with the prosecutor's office this month. "He registered my complaint, and he is waiting for me to be auditioned to go further into the procedure. I will meet the police in the middle of August to be heard another time about my complaint. Then I don't know the following steps; I'll probably know more after this meeting. I think my manager [Marc Bracke] will be heard in Belgium as well."
Sicot alleges six UCI code violations
Sicot lodged her complaint with the UCI Ethics Commission on March 18. Her attorney confirmed to Cycilngnews that her allegations are centred around the UCI Code of Ethics Article 6.4: Protection of physical and mental integrity in conjunction with Appendix 1: protection of physical and mental integrity – sexual harassment and abuse, and citing Article 2.3: Sexual harassment, Article 2.5: Neglect, and Article 2.6: Minors and other dependant persons.
According to Sicot's attorney the range of complaints allege 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 include 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.
Sicot also alleges three violations of the UCI Regulations; section 12.4.004: Discrimination along with sections 2.17.030 and 12.4.008: Violation of contract rules and fraud. According to Sicot's attorney, Bracke forced Sicot to sign a "secret" agreement, contrary to the UCI Regulations, by which she was responsible for bearing all costs related to her training and competition activities.
Sicot's attorney confirmed to Cyclingnews that the UCI has launched a formal investigation and that the case is currently ongoing. Cyclingnews also reached out to the UCI for a comment regarding the case, however, the sport governing body noted that cases of this nature are handled independently by the Ethics Commission.
"The proceedings regarding the team manager of Doltcini-van Eyck are dealt with by the Ethics Commission," read a statement from the UCI to Cyclingnews. "Since it conducts its proceedings independently, we are not able to confirm the nature of the complaints that have been filed. It should also be pointed out that the Ethics Commission determines which allegations and reports are relevant for the proceedings, which may therefore include statements provided by various witnesses or alleged victims."
The UCI has already opened a formal investigation into Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport (opens in new tab) women's team after two other riders separately alleged abuses within the team. Canadian Maggie Coles-Lyster alleged in an interview with Le Monde and Cyclingnews that she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a team assistant in 2017. American Sara Youmans has filed a formal complaint with the UCI Ethics Commission citing the UCI Code of Ethics (opens in new tab): Appendix 1 that covers protection of physical and mental integrity – sexual harassment and abuse, alleging alleged inappropriate conduct by Bracke during her contract negotiations in 2019.
Cyclingnews reached out to Bracke by phone, and subsequent email, for a comment regarding Sicot's allegations; however, he did not respond to our detailed message before publishing this story.
Sicot faces a four-year ban
Sicot spent two seasons with Doltcini-Van Eyck in 2018 and 2019. She tested positive for EPO in a test carried out by the Agence Française de Lutte contre le Dopage (AFLD) at the French time trial championships on June 27, 2019. She finished tenth in the time trial and then ninth in the road race. She was due to ride the La Course by Le Tour de France (opens in new tab) but pulled out after being notified that EPO had been founded in her A sample.
At that time, she confirmed the positive test to the Directvelo (opens in new tab) website and revealed that she was awaiting the testing of her B sample. She had initially insisted she had not done anything wrong and claimed that women have higher levels of EPO during their menstrual cycle. Sicot later confirmed via social media that her B sample had also tested positive for the drug.
In an interview with Stade 2, Sicot admitted to Googling 'purchase EPO' and then buying ten vials of the substance through a Chinese website in May 2019. She said she took the drug on June 24.
Sicot has requested a reduced suspension from anti-doping authorities, alleging that her decision to purchase and use EPO happened after she experienced months of psychological abuse by Bracke.
"I've been banned from competition since July 18, 2019, so it means that I haven't taken part in cycling races for a bit more than one year now. I risk a four-year ban, and in that case, I would be allowed to come back on July 19, 2023. At the moment, I am waiting to know about my ban," Sicot told Cyclingnews.
"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.
"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."
In part 2 (opens in new tab) of a detailed report in Cyclisme Dopage, Sicot further described the alleged abuse by Bracke and her psychological state and the events that led to her injecting one vial of EPO into her stomach.
"I made a single intake of EPO, on the day of my birthday, and that looked more like a sportive suicide," she told Cyclingnews. "With today's technology, it is easy to check that I had no power increase with the power meter as all my training and competition are available on the internet, which helps show and prove my EPO intake was a single one. I hope to know about my suspension before the end of the year. Every single day, I'm checking one day off the counting, if I have a four-year ban, time looks truly very long to me."
Sicot said that she is currently waiting for the decision of the AFLD and the UCI regarding the official length of her suspension in relation to her anti-doping rule violation. Cyclingnews reached out to the UCI for an update regarding Sicot's anti-doping rule violation and if it has considered a reduced suspension, however, it reiterated that the case falls under the jurisdiction of the AFLD.
"Testing having been initiated and directed by the [AFLD] during the French National Road Championships, the case falls under the jurisdiction of the AFLD which is conducting the proceedings. In the meantime, pending the outcome of these proceedings, the UCI has provisionally suspended the rider with immediate effect."
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.