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UCI begins investigation into abuse complaints against Van Gansen

Health Mate Ladies Team (UCI Women's Team)

Health Mate Ladies Team (UCI Women's Team) (Image credit: Getty Images)

The UCI announced on Friday that its Ethics Commission had begun a formal investigation into the complaints of abuse filed against Health Mate Ladies Team general manager Patrick Van Gansen. The governing body acknowledged that it had gained additional information regarding the case that indicates breaches of the Code of Ethics.

"The UCI has received confirmation from its Ethics Commission that proceedings have formally been initiated in the case of Mr Patrick Van Gansen, General Manager of the Healthmate-Cyclive Team. By this decision, the Ethics Commission confirms that based on a prima facie examination of information at its disposal – most of which has been received in the past few weeks – there is an indication that breaches of the UCI Code of Ethics may have been committed," the statement read.

"The Ethics Commission will now conduct its investigation through written and oral questioning, as determined by the Chairman of the panel that has been appointed to deal with the case. As for any ongoing case of such nature, the UCI is not in a position to provide any further comments and insists on the importance for the UCI Ethics Commission to conduct its proceedings in an independent manner."

Cyclingnews reported in early June that three former Health Mate Ladies riders – Esther Miesels, Sara Mustonen and the father of Chloë Turblin – separately filed complaints with the UCI Ethics Commission reporting abuses against Van Gansen. Their complaints centre around the UCI Code of Ethics: Appendix 1, which covers protection of physical and mental integrity, sexual harassment and abuse.

In the wake of that report, six more riders have come forward to corroborate those allegations; Tara Gins and four riders who wished to remain anonymous wrote an open letter describing their experiences to the Dutch news outlet WielerFlits. Gins also indicated in her letter that the women would file formal complaints with the UCI Ethics Commission. In addition, Liz Hatch confirmed similar experiences while racing on a team he sponsored in 2013 in an interview with Het Nieuwsblad.

A 10th rider who raced for the Health Mate Ladies Team this year, and who wished to remain anonymous, wrote to Cyclingnews corroborating the abuse claims and describing an unsettling environment during her time with the team and living in Van Gansen’s home.

All riders have alleged that Van Gansen was verbally aggressive and made sexually inappropriate remarks toward them. 

Van Gansen has rejected all allegations of abuse and inappropriate behaviour and has indicated that he intends to take legal action to clear his name in a full statement published on the Health Mate Ladies Team website.

The UCI has put in place regulations, procedures and independent decision-making bodies to deal with breaches of the Code of Ethics independently. It has recently updated its Code of Ethics to include more protections for athletes, and now covers teams and staff.

The last steps have been to provide for clear rules of conduct related to harassment and abuse in Appendix 1 to the Code of Ethics and raise awareness of UCI Women’s Teams’ staff by requiring signed statements of recognition of ethical principles during the team registration process.

Cyclingnews published the Ethics Commission's protocol that cyclists must follow to file formal complaints if they experience abuse or witness abuse within the sport of cycling.

As noted in the Code of Ethics, the Secretariat of the Ethics Commission is dealt with by a secretary appointed by the UCI Management Committee. The secretary is independent of the UCI and possesses adequate legal qualification. Matters must be brought before the Ethics Commission in writing (email) and addressed to the Secretariat.

Once a complaint is reported to the UCI Ethics Commission email address [secretariat@uci-ethics.ch] the Secretariat will register a file and send it to the President of the Ethics Commission and inform the UCI President of the registration of a new file. The President of the Ethics Commission will proceed to a 'prima facie' examination of the case [the sender will receive a letter via email from the President of the UCI Ethics Commission informing that the complaint has been received - ed.].

The President of the Ethics Commission will then determine whether there is any indication that a breach of the Code may have been committed. The President of the Ethics Commission may later request additional information and documentation from the sender of the complaint or denunciation or any person bound by the Code, before deciding to initiate proceedings (Code of Ethics, Article 27).

Cyclingnews understands that the UCI Ethics Commission is free to arrange multiple complaints into one procedure if there they are all against the same alleged offender.

To learn more about the next steps involved in a formal complaint process with the UCI Ethics Commission, click here.

There will be an investigation and examination of evidence and witness testimony by a panel of three. If the panel determines that breaches of the Code of Ethics have been committed, it could impose a reprimand. For more severe cases, it will refer the report to the Disciplinary Commission.