UCI urges Polish Cycling Federation to cooperate in sex abuse scandal investigation

The UCI issued a statement urging the Polish Cycling Federation to cooperate with the Polish authorities in a scandal that has threatened to tear the national federation apart.

"The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has learned from the news that there has been a recent audit reporting serious allegation of sexual misconduct towards riders as well as financial malpractice within the Polish Cycling Federation," the UCI statement read.

"With the athlete's welfare at the core of its mission, the UCI wishes to reiterate its commitment to protecting riders against abuse of any form and at all levels."

The statement reflects a letter UCI president David Lappartient sent to Polish Federation's president Dariusz Banaszek yesterday. A copy of it was made public by the federation on its website.

"I have to reiterate that the UCI wishes to shed light on the serious allegations which were recently disclosed. To date, I have not received any evidence supporting the fact that the current administration of the Polish Cycling Federation would bear no responsibility whatsoever in connection with the said allegations," Lappartient wrote, urging the federation to cooperate with the government.

An audit of the finances of the Polish federation turned up witnesses who alleged sexual and financial abuse of athletes, some minors, from a former upper-level federation employee. The allegations were leaked to the media by a former board member.

In reaction, the Polish Ministry of Sport and Tourism suspended the funding to the federation and called for the entire board to resign. The federation, already subject to ministerial control, has since fallen under the control of the Supreme Audit Office of Poland (NIK), which is set to investigate the financial management of the track in Pruszkow between 2007 and 2018.

While eight out of nine board members filed their resignations, president Dariusz Banaszek refused to obey the minister's call to resign. During a press conference on Friday, he called the demand "a form of blackmail".

"I wish to declare two things. First, I will resign during the general delegates' assembly meeting. Second, I will not resign on your terms, minister. You have no right to decide who runs the federation, it is up to the delegates to decide," he said, stressing the role of the delegates who are set to gather in Pruszkow on December 22.

Witold Banka, Poland's Sport and Tourism minister, reacted swiftly and declared that he will not back down in the dispute. During a press briefing, he revealed that Polish Federation failed to submit financial statements on time, asking for an additional week to complete the documentation. No official actions have been taken by the ministry since.

The UCI issued a stern message to the federation but has so far declined to announce any action of its own. "The UCI has strongly encouraged the Polish Cycling Federation to cooperate with the Polish Ministry of Sport and Tourism and the public authorities to ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to restore good governance and credibility at the federation," they stated.

"The UCI will continue to monitor the situation and looks forward to the reestablishment of stability at the Polish Cycling Federation without delay."

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