The UCI Disciplinary Commission has levied a nearly three-year ban against Belgian cycling director Patrick Van Gansen — former director of the Team Health Mate women’s pro team — following an investigation into allegations of abuse by former riders.
Van Gansen will be forbidden from exercising any function in cycling through December 31, 2022, and the ban has been retroactively applied starting on April 16, 2020. Van Gansen must also complete a course on workplace sexual harassment offered by a professional institute before he is eligible to obtain a new license.
“The UCI welcomes this decision, which sets an important precedent with respect to sexual harassment,” the UCI said in a statement. “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 behavior which is not compliant with our Federation’s rules of ethics.”
The disciplinary action stems from a 2019 investigation into Van Gansen and the Healthmate-Cycle Team following several allegations of abuse from riders. In 2019 Cyclingnews.com reported that three riders had filed formal complaints with the UCI against Van Gansen, and the complaints included allegations of abuse and sexual abuse.
In the following months, more riders followed suit to confirm those allegations. In April 2020 the UCI announced that Van Gansen had been found guilty after an investigation into the situation.
You can read the full UCI statement below:
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) today announces that its Disciplinary Commission has rendered its decision in the disciplinary proceedings concerning Mr. Patrick Van Gansen (former manager of the UCI Women’s Continental Team Health Mate – Ladies Team) related to allegations of harassment by a number of riders. The UCI had previously communicated on the opening of the disciplinary proceedings further to the conclusions drawn by the UCI Ethics Commission as well as on the conduct of the investigation by the latter which had required the support of the independent investigation agency Sport Resolutions for the establishment of facts.
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.
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 license 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 behavior which is not compliant with our Federation’s rules of ethics.
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.
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.
With a view to reinforcing the measures in place, we are working 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 shall 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. In order to 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 organizations 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.
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.