Five former cyclists for the Health Mate Ladies Team have published an open letter accusing the team manager of harassment
The letter accuses team manager Patrick Van Gansen of making inappropriate sexual remarks and becoming verbally aggressive toward team members, according to Het Nieuwsblad.
The letter also said Van Gansen criticised the women about their weight and appearance and mentally abused them.
Liz Hatch Fenn, a former member of the Health Mate team, added her support for the cyclists on Twitter.
Reading this article makes me sick to my stomach. 6 years ago I had the unfortunate opportunity to experience Mr. Van Gansen's tactics personally while racing for his team and I can vouch for the validity of Esther Meisels claims.
Please, get lost Van Gansen. https://t.co/WyaCLUvjHk
— Liz Hatch Fenn (@Liz_Hatch) June 11, 2019
The open letter comes after a former Health Mate cyclist made a statement about Van Gansen’s behaviour earlier this month.
Esther Meisels, an Israeli cyclist, announced on 4 June that she left the Health Mate Ladies Team after being harassed by Van Gansen.
“I have decided to leave Health Mate Ladies Team due to abusive treatment and inappropriate behaviour by the team manager,” Meisels said in an Instagram post.
Meisels also said her wellbeing and self-worth are more important than a race and that Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the cycling governing body, had more complaints against Van Gansen.
View this post on Instagram
To all those who noticed my absence here- thank you, and I’m sorry I didn’t respond to everyone’s messages. I needed some alone time. I have decided to leave Health Mate Ladies Team due to abusive treatment and inappropriate behavior by the team manger. The UCI already has several complaints stacked against him and I hope they take action. Until then, I know I have to distance myself from it. My happiness, mental well-being, and self-worth is more important than any bike race will ever be.
A post shared by Esther Meisels (@esthermeisels) on
Three complaints against Van Gansen have been filed with the UCI Ethics Commission, according to Cyclingnews.
Meisels joined Health Mate at the beginning of the year and moved into the team house owned by Van Gansen in Ekeren in Flanders. She says she was not told that the house was also Van Gansen’s primary residence.
As a foreign rider with nowhere else to live and receiving no salary, Meisels said she spent much of her time in the house alone with Van Gansen.
While in the house, Van Gansen made sexually suggestive comments to Meisels and would ask her to kiss him in exchange for putting her on a roster for a race. Meisels said she would stay in her room all day to avoid him.
Two other cyclists, Sara Mustonen and Chloë Turblin, left Health Mate this spring. Both Mustonen and Turblin’s father filed complaints against Van Gansen.
Mustonen told Cyclingnews that Van Gansen violated the UCI code of ethics by screaming, swearing, and making inappropriate comments at riders.
Turblin’s father’s complaint included accusations of illegal working conditions, bad treatment, and inappropriate behaviour.
Van Gansen has denied all accusations of inappropriate or abusive behaviour.
The Brussels Times