Patrick Lefevere.

UCI is fining Lefevere for his sexist comments, the question is which?

The UCI Ethics Commission has had quite the day!

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 14.03.2024 Photography by
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After years of outrageously sexist comments, the UCI has finally handed Patrick Lefevere a teaspoon of comeuppance.

The UCI Ethics Commission woke up on Thursday and decided they were going to have a day, releasing updates on four different situations all crammed into one press release.

Arguably the biggest news was that the commission has found that Soudal Quick-Step boss Lefevere made “public comments considered as disparaging towards women” and therefore breached articles 5 and 6.1 of the Code of Ethics in two separate instances. Which instances, you ask? Could it have been blaming the sexual assault of women on their alcohol use? Or was it his response, when asked why he didn’t have a complimentary women’s team to go along with his men’s squad, that he is not a charity? Or maybe his most recent comments where he appeared to blame Julian Alaphilippe’s late underperformance on being “under the spell” of his wife, Tour de France Femmes director Marion Rousse? Well, the easy answer is that we don’t know, as that information is not included in the Ethics Commission’s announcement.

Whatever the breach (or breaches), as punishment Lefevere “has been requested to make a public statement recognising the inappropriateness of his statements and apologising therefor.” He’s also been fined CHF 20,000 (€22,000), which the former accountant will surely take umbrage with. Normally, we’d expect a fire-breathing banger of a column in Lefevere’s next byline in Het Nieuwsblad.

But it’s a suspended fine, meaning Lefevere won’t have to pay it if he issues that public show of contrition and “does not commit a similar breach of the UCI Code of Ethics within the next three years.” Is there anywhere to bet 20,000 CHF that Lefevere will say something that breaches the Code of Ethics in the next three years?

Three other updates are smushed in alongside Lefevere. First, there’s news that the President of the Afghan Cycling Federation, Mr. Fazli Ahmad Fazli, has had all UCI investigations relating to the humanitarian evacuation closed. Fazli had faced bullying and blackmail allegations, but the Ethics Commission found “there was no evidence justifying the pursuance of the investigations on allegations of breach of the UCI Code of Ethics.” However, an inquiry into other reported ethics violations by Fazli remains ongoing.

We then move over to Eastern Europe, as a case has been opened against former President of the Ukrainian Cycling Federation, Mr. Alexander Bashenko, “for the use of insulting language directed at incumbent officials within the National Federation as well as officials of the UCI and the International Olympic Committee (IOC),” statements that were made in messaging groups consisting of other members of the National Federation. Sounds spicy. Bashenko was provisionally handed a one-year suspension starting from May 2023, which has now been confirmed, and a fine of CHF 5,000.

To round it off, a decision has been made regarding the exclusion of an assistant driver in the Tour of Slovakia in 2023, with the Ethics Commission finding the Slovak Cycling Federation took such decision in an arbitrary manner and without appropriate justification, “in violation of article 6.4 of the Code of Ethics which protects the personal rights of individuals.” The Federation has “received a reprimand” and a fine of CHF 5,000, suspended for two years if they don’t do it again.

All in a day’s work for the Ethics Commission, but one further element remains outstanding: who they are. The press release takes pains to note in its opening paragraph that it is “a body acting independently of the UCI’s administration,” but the makeup of the commission is not widely known.

The current commission was appointed in August and is overseen since 2020 by secretary Pierre Turrettini, a Swiss lawyer who also works with the Court of Abitration for Sport. Members are Jean-Christophe Breillat, President of the Progesport program at the Centre de Droit et d’Economie du Sport; Lauren Pagé, a Canadian sports attorney and arbitrator; the well-known Richard Leggat, a sports attorney and former board member of Cycling New Zealand, who has served on the commission since 2021; and Vered Desche, an Israeli of uncertain background with an extremely thin online presence. The president is yet another sports lawyer, Marc Cavaliero, who regularly appears before CAS on behalf of clients. Now you know.

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