The UCI confirmed that its Disciplinary Commission has the power to provisionally suspend Doltcini-Van Eyck team manager Marc Bracke, but that it has not done so, while it makes a decision regarding his sanction as part of an ongoing harassment case.
The Ethics Commission found that Bracke had violated the Code of Ethics last October. However, the Disciplinary Commission has not provisionally suspended him, which means that he can continue working in the sport until an official pronouncement.
"The possibility of imposing provisional sanctions exists for the Disciplinary Commission and shall be envisaged for the Ethics Commission when the Code is revised at the next Management Committee meeting," the UCI wrote in a statement to Cyclingnews on Tuesday.
"In any case, the application of provisional sanctions can only [be] considered on a case-by-case basis and under strict conditions. Other measures aimed at providing an environment which facilitates inappropriate actions being denounced shall also be considered and communicated in due course."
The UCI did not respond to Cyclingnews' questions on why the Disciplinary Commission has not provisionally suspended Bracke nor on Cyclingnew's request for additional details regarding the strict conditions by which it applies provisional suspensions.
However, the UCI stated that it in future, the Ethics Commission could gain the authority to apply provisional sanctions at the time its Code of Ethics is revised by the Management Committee.
Last October, the Ethics Commission found that Bracke had violated the Code of Ethics following formal complaints of harassment by two female riders, who alleged that he requested images of them in their "panties and bra" and "bikini."
The UCI did not specifically indicate which of its Code of Ethics that Bracke had violated when it made its announcement last October. It only stated that violations had occurred regarding the complaints of harassment. Bracke has denied the allegations of harassment that were included in the formal complaints.
The case's findings are now being reviewed by the Disciplinary Commission, which is the body responsible for determining a sanction. However, Cyclingnews understands that until that decision has been made, Bracke has not been provisionally suspended and so is permitted to continue to manage and direct the team Doltcini-Van Eyck-Proximus.
Organisers and federations with no authority
Cyclingnews reached out to Belgian Cycling in January to confirm whether Doltcini-Van Eyck-Proximus, a Belgian-registered team, had applied for a 2021 licence, and if the UCI had approved it in light of the ongoing case concerning Bracke.
Belgian Cycling's director Jos Smets stated, at that time, that the UCI approved the team's licence because the case was still in progress and the Disciplinary Commission had yet pronounced no sanction. The UCI also told Belgian Cycling that if the Disciplinary Commission were to impose a sanction [mid-season], Bracke would be prohibited from representing the team for that sanction duration.
"Marc Bracke is indeed the subject of an ongoing procedure. This procedure began before the UCI Ethics Commission and is now before the UCI Disciplinary Commission. As the procedure is still in progress and no sanction has yet been pronounced, the UCI has no particular indication to transmit," the UCI wrote to Belgian Cycling.
"If Mr. Bracke were to be suspended during the season, he would be prohibited from performing any function for which a license is required, from acting as a representative of the team, or from occupying any role through which he could commit the company that owns the team."
Belgian Cycling has also told Cyclingnews that it has no authority over the case or whether Bracke continues working as a manager or director while the case is ongoing at the UCI. In the meantime, Belgian Cycling also does not have the power to impose a provisional suspension while the Disciplinary Commission reviews the findings.
"The UCI informed us that we have to wait for the decision of the disciplinary commission of the UCI," Smets said. "Since the dossier is being handled by the UCI, Belgian Cycling has no authority in this matter and therefore cannot impose a sanction, not even temporarily."
Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel confirmed last week that his organisation requested that Bracke not attend its events ahead of the Tour of Flanders while the case is ongoing. He also stated that race organisers don't have the authority to prohibit Bracke from being at the races.
A representative from Doltcini-Van Eyck-Proximus confirmed to Cyclingnews that, while it did not agree with Flanders Classics' request, Bracke will not attend any of its events until the UCI Disciplinary Commission reaches a decision and that Liesbet De Vocht will direct the team.
Code of Ethics overhaul
The Ethics Commission was introduced in 2016. It acts externally to the sport governing body and includes five members, mainly lawyers, appointed by the UCI Congress.
Its primary responsibility is to ensure that the Code of Ethics is respected. It investigates any complaint, denunciation or breach of the Code, and like the Disciplinary Commission, operates under the authority of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The Code of Ethics has undergone an overhaul in recent years and now covers team management and staff. Prompted by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) introduction of the Safeguarding Toolkit in 2018, it now also includes 'anonymity of the plaintiff,' to better protect the victim's privacy and new dedicated reporting channels for filing complaints.
The UCI has confirmed to Cyclingnews, that the Code of Ethics is expected to be revised again with discussions to take place at the the next Management Committee meeting.
In addition that the Code of Ethics could, in future, give provisional sanctioning powers to the Ethics Commission. This could potentially help to temporarily remove from the sport those who are found guilty of violating the Code of Ethics, at least until the Disciplinary makes a final decision on sanctioning.
Bracke's case is one of two high-profile investigations to have happened in professional cycling recently.
The Ethics Commission also found Health Mate-Cyclelive team manager Patrick Van Gansen guilty of violating the Code of Ethics in a multi-complaint abuse case, and 10 months later, he was given a partially retroactive 22-month suspension by the Disciplinary Commission.
“The UCI is committed to providing a safe environment for all cycling stakeholders, free from any form of discrimination. Since being put in place in 2016, the Ethics Commission has dealt with a variety of topics and enabled the UCI to fulfill its duty of enforcing ethical rules and behaviour. The Ethics Commission has proven its ability to deal with highly sensitive subjects and in full independence," the UCI wrote in a statement to Cyclingnews.
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