Actualité du dopage

Philippa York: Bikinigate and the worrying attitudes toward female riders

28/03/2020 - - Philippa York

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The Marion Sicot doping case is a sorry enough story, and one of a young athlete making the wrong choice. It’s something that we’ve seen before in the sport, many times, and it’s more than likely an episode that will repeat itself again and again.

However, the statement put out by her former team, Doltcini-Van Eyck, highlights not only the pressures to perform but other much more worrying attitudes towards female riders altogether.

As a parent, I read the story of the team's Directeur Sportif Marc Bracke requesting photos of young women in bikinis and was horrified that this has been justified behind the pretense of checking body fat levels. What was more worrying was that according to the team statement this was considered normal behaviour in the past. That their argument also consisted of the notion that people knew of this practice left me with my head in my hands.

It goes without saying that coming forward to address these issues and speaking out is an incredibly difficult task. It takes guts and untold amount of determination and resilience but I find it staggering that such a practice happened in women's cycling teams and, although two riders have now filed complaints, no-one at the team management level thought to question it.

Did none of those who knew or who this was reported to not have a daughter, sister, niece, girlfriend or female acquaintance?

Did no one ever think that something so abhorrent was fundamentally wrong when an older man in a position of power was asking for photos of young women in bikinis or underwear?

Taking away the idiocy that anyone can pretend to conduct a skin fold assessment from a photo, there's also the considerations over protection and exploitation. Remember, this involves the exposure to creepy manipulation because the victims have been asked to keep the whole thing a secret. They’re asked to consider the sharing of photos as a matter of trust and at that point it's well on the road to becoming grooming, pure and simple.

Reading through the team statement I thought for a moment that they were going to trot out the old excuse, saying that the person asking for images had been involved in bike racing all their life, as if that was a guarantee of their integrity, but instead they turned the whole thing around and it has become victim blaming against Sicot.

The correct response would have been for the team to write a carefully worded reply saying they were looking for dialogue between those involved, and that they couldn't say anything until the authorities had completed their investigations. They should have added that they took their responsibilities very seriously.

That would have been the normal thing to do. Instead, they chose to blame the alleged victims. It's a pretty low thing to say Sicot was trying to hide behind her doping with a MeToo hashtag when this seems to be so much more complicated than that.

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