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American women's cycling team suspended after dressing mechanic as a rider to avoid race disqualification

A private U.S. women's cycling team has been disciplined for attempting to pass off a mechanic as a certified racer in a July 2023 event in Belgium. 

Cynisca Cycling was set to compete in Belgium's Argenta Classic on July 9, 2023, the team said in a statement to CBS News, but due to an illness, they did not have the necessary riders necessary to race. Both the racing team and the Union Cycliste Internationale, the body that oversees the Belgium race and other events, said that sports director Danny Van Haute then attempted to pass team mechanic Moira Barrett off as a registered rider by having her dress in cyclist gear and having other team members lie about her identity. 

Barrett was told to present herself at the starting line and identify herself as the team's fifth rider, the UCI said. It's not clear how the fraud was discovered, but Cynisca said in their statement that the team was not allowed to start the race, and a complaint was filed with the UCI's disciplinary commission. 

Van Haute was "found to be the main perpetrator," the UCI said, and has been suspended from cycling activities until Dec. 2025. He was also fined, and Cynisca said that they have "terminated all current and future relationships" with him.

Cynisca said that Van Haute was hired on contract for several races. Other team management and staff members were "unaware of the deception," the team said. 

Barrett has been suspended from cycling activities until Sept. 2024, and has also had her relationship with Cynisca terminated, the team said. Meanwhile, the four racers who lied about Barrett's identity have been sanctioned with a reprimand under UCI regulations, and the team was fined and suspended from participating in the next race on the UCI International Calendar. The decisions can be appealed, the UCI said. 

"The team did not and will never condone this sort of behavior," Cynisca Cycling said, adding that the organization understood the need for disciplinary action and had cooperated with the investigation. "This was a one-time mistake by a rogue director."

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