US women’s cycling team suspended for dressing mechanic as rider to avoid disqualification from race

US women’s cycling team Cynisca has been suspended by the International Cycling Union (UCI), the sport’s global governing body, for perpetrating a “fraud” and dressing a mechanic as a rider in order to avoid disqualification from a race.

In a statement, the UCI said Cynisca required five riders in order to take part in last July’s Argenta Classic in Belgium but arrived at the start line with only four.

The UCI said Cynisca’s then sports director, Danny Van Haute, told the four riders – Anna Hicks, Cara O’Neill, Katherine Sarkisov and Claire Windsor – to “lie about the whereabouts of a fifth rider,” who they said was ill.

After informing the team they needed a fifth rider in order to compete, the UCI said Van Haute told team mechanic Moira Barrett to wear a rider’s clothes and face mask, sign the start sheet as a rider and then present herself at the starting line.

“The above-mentioned members of the team were therefore all found to have participated in a fraud under article 12.4.008 of the UCI Regulations, with different levels of implication,” the UCI statement read.

In a statement sent to CNN, Cynisca called the incident a “one-time mistake by a rogue director.”

“At the time of the event, other team management/staff were unaware of the deception carried out by Mr. Van Haute and the mechanic,” the statement added.

“Upon learning of the incident, the team took actions internally and terminated all current and future relationships with Mr. Van Haute and the mechanic. The team then fully cooperated with the UCI investigation.

“Cynisca Cycling understands the need for disciplinary action taken by the UCI. The team did not and will never condone this sort of behavior. On behalf of the team, we once again apologize to the event organizers for the behavior that occurred at the event.”

Cynisca said Hicks has also since left the team, adding: “The team looks forward to continuing our mission to advance more women in cycling.”

Cynisca called Van Haute a "rogue director." - Cynisca Cycling
Cynisca called Van Haute a "rogue director." - Cynisca Cycling

The UCI said Van Haute “was found to be the main perpetrator” and suspended from all cycling activity until December 31, 2025, as well as being fined.

Barrett, who the UCI said “played an active role in the fraud by wearing a rider’s clothes and attempting to sign the start sheet as the team’s fifth rider,” was suspended until September 1, 2024.

The four riders were given a reprimand, while the team has been fined and banned from the next race on the UCI International Calendar.

“The decision remains subject to a possible appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS),” the statement added.

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