Van Gansen given nearly three-year suspension in Health Mate abuse case

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

Patrick Van Gansen has been handed a partially retroactive suspension of two years and seven months by the UCI Disciplinary Commission following a guilty verdict in the Health Mate-Cyclelive abuse case that shocked the professional cycling world in 2019. 

The former team manager was found to have violated the sport governing body’s Code of Ethics in the multiple-complaint harassment and abuse case but will be eligible to return to the sport on December 31, 2022. Van Gansen will need to take a course addressing the matter of workplace sexual harassment, to be provided by a recognized professional institute, should he wish to apply for a licence after his suspension has been served.

Cyclingnews understands that Van Gansen was notified by the UCI of the decision on Monday. Cyclingnews reached out to Van Gansen for comment, through both email and phone, however, he has not replied to our detailed messages.

"The UCI Disciplinary Commission confirmed the appreciation of the UCI Ethics Commission and reached the finding that violations of the UCI Code of Ethics had been committed," read a statement from the UCI Monday.

"The UCI Disciplinary Commission therefore ordered that Mr Van Gansen be suspended from exercising any function in cycling for a period starting retroactively from 16 April 2020 and extending until 31 December 2022. As a further measure and condition for the issuance of a new licence after the period of suspension has been served, Mr Van Gansen shall follow a course addressing the matter of workplace sexual harassment to be provided by a recognized professional institute.

"The UCI welcomes this decision, which sets an important precedent with respect to sexual harassment. It is essential for athletes’ welfare that they trust the institutions and feel free to denounce harassment in all forms. The UCI shall endeavor to support all persons wishing to report such actions whether they are victims or witness behaviour which is not compliant with our Federation’s rules of ethics."

The sport's governing body has made some significant improvements to the structure of its Ethics Commission and the Code of Ethics in recent years. All women's teams must now sign a Code of Conduct declaration at the time of registration, aiming to raise awareness of harassment, and the Ethics Commission is now thoroughly investigating complaints of harassment in the sport.

"In 2016, the UCI has adopted a Code of Ethics which was then adapted in 2018 to provide a clear regulatory framework in respect of harassment and abuse so that athletes are protected against all forms of harassment and feel that they are supported by our Federation and that the necessary staff, processes, and judicial bodies are in place," stated the UCI.

"Since 2019, we have carried out an awareness campaign with all women’s and men’s road teams (UCI Women’s WorldTeams and UCI Women’s Continental Teams, UCI WorldTeams, UCI ProTeams and UCI Continental Teams). All staff members, including the team manager, must sign a document acknowledging important rules of conduct and committing to fight against harassment and abuse within their team."

The UCI noted that it will reinforce the measures in place as it works to set up a platform for whistle-blowers, including at the internal level of the UCI and its training arm, the UCI World Cycling Centre. Training will also be provided to the persons susceptible of receiving reports of harassment, including UCI staff, UCI Ethics Commission members and the President of the UCI Athletes’ Commission. 

The UCI stated that in order to further draw the attention of all stakeholders to their responsibility for the welfare of athletes, awareness raising material shall be published on the UCI website. 

In addition, dedicated codes of conduct shall be issued related to the different organisations involved in the training of young athletes to ensure that all persons concerned are made accountable for their actions. 

"We shall also be drawing conclusions from the past and ongoing procedures to review our rules and ensure complaints are dealt with as swiftly as possible," stated the UCI.

"There is still work to be done to fully fulfill our mission, but this decision marks a decisive step in the effective protection of athletes, which is an essential mission of our International Federation."

Health Mate case began in 2019

The UCI announced in April 2020 that its Ethics Commission, which handled the four formal complaints, had found Van Gansen guilty of violating its Code of Ethics following a complete investigation led by the external agency Sport Resolutions. It confirmed to Cyclingnews, at that time, that Van Gansen was notified of its decision and that any sanctions would be handled by the Disciplinary Commission.

Van Gansen did not register as a staff member of a UCI team for 2020 nor in 2021 and told Cyclingnews, at that time, that he had chosen to not be involved in women's cycling anymore.

Cyclingnews first reported in June of 2019 that Health Mate-Cyclelive riders - Esther Meisels, Sara Mustonen and the father of Chloë Turblin - separately filed formal complaints with the Ethics Commission, reporting abuses by Van Gansen. Their complaints centered around the Code of Ethics: Appendix 1, which covers protection of physical and mental integrity, sexual harassment and abuse. 

In the wake of those reports, six more riders came forward to corroborate the allegations in the media; Tara Gins and four riders who wished to remain anonymous wrote an open letter describing their experiences to the Dutch news outlet WielerFlits. In addition, former cyclist Liz Hatch confirmed similar experiences while racing on a team he sponsored in 2013 in an interview with Het Nieuwsblad.

A 10th rider, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote a letter to Cyclingnews that detailed an unsettling environment during her time on the team.

The Ethics Commission had begun a formal investigation into the complaints in June of 2019, and by December that year, it had hired an external agency, UK-based Sport Resolutions. It told Cyclingnews that an external agency was required to investigate the series of abuse complaints due to the case’s high demands that included the seriousness of the accusations, the complaints that spanned several years, and because there were a large number of people involved.  

The Ethics Commission delayed announcing its decision in the case after new allegations from an 11th rider from the team surfaced. The rider, who wished to remain anonymous, told Cyclingnews that she had filed the fourth formal complaint with the Ethics Commission in February of 2020. 

The Sport Resolutions team investigated the fourth formal complaint before providing the Ethics Commission with its dossier. After reviewing the findings, the Ethics Commission found that Van Gansen had violated the Code of Ethics and recommended sanctioning, and transferred the case file over to its Disciplinary Commission to initiate proceedings with a view to the possibility of sanctions being imposed.

Van Gansen had denied all allegations of abuse, inappropriate behaviour and violence, and claimed conspiracy among the riders who filed formal complaints. He had expressed his intent to take legal action against all those involved in the case against him.

Since Cyclingnews broke this story in 2019 Kirsten Frattini has gone on to write several exclusive and important stories on the subject. You can find all the coverage in the links below:

Riders file abuse complaints against Health Mate-Cyclelive manager

Six riders corroborate abuse allegations against Patrick Van Gansen

10th rider details unsettling environment at Health Mate Ladies Team

UCI begins investigation into abuse complaints against Van Gansen

Slappendel urges cyclists to file formal complaints with UCI against abusers

Health Mate to end title sponsorship amid Van Gansen investigation

Patrick Van Gansen to take legal action against women who allege abuse

UCI hires external agency to investigate abuse complaints against Patrick Van Gansen

Exclusive: Van Gansen faces new allegations of abuse as UCI delays Health Mate decision

Patrick Van Gansen found guilty of ethics violations in Health Mate abuse case

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Kirsten Frattini
Women's Editor

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.