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Cycling team suspended for fraud after dressing mechanic as rider because they were short a cyclist

The sport's governing body found the American team Cynisca Cycling deceived race officials into believing it had the required number of riders.
The Cynisca Cycling team car at the Vuelta CV Feminas 2024 race in Spain on Feb. 2.
The Cynisca Cycling team car at the Vuelta CV Feminas 2024 race in Spain on Feb. 2.IMAGO / Beautiful Sports via Reuters

The American women’s cycling team Cynisca was suspended by the sport’s governing body for “fraud” for dressing a team mechanic as a rider to avoid disqualification from a race.

Cynisca was short one rider to be eligible for the Belgium Argenta Classic in July. The team's sporting director, Danny Van Haute, instructed the team to deceive race officials and “lie about the whereabouts of a fifth rider,” the Union Cycliste Internationale, or UCI, said in a statement Monday.

Riders Anna Hicks, Cara O’Neil, Katherine Sarkisov and Claire Windsor told officials their last rider was present but too ill to participate, the UCI said. However, officials still required all five riders to sign the start sheet and be at the start of the race to participate in the event. 

Van Haute then directed team mechanic Moira Barrett to wear “rider’s clothes and a face mask” and “present herself at the start and sign the start sheet as the team’s fifth rider,” according to the UCI. 

“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 said.

Cynisca said other management and staff members were unaware of the fraud attempt. The team said it has since “terminated all current and future relationships” with Van Haute and Barrett.

“Cynisca Cycling understands the need for disciplinary action taken by the UCI. The team did not and will never condone this sort of behavior. This was a one-time mistake by a rogue director,” the cycling team said in a statement.

“We once again apologize to the event organizers for the behavior that occurred at the event. The team looks forward to continuing our mission to advance more women in cycling,” it added.

The UCI found Van Haute “to be the main perpetrator” of the deception. He was suspended from all cycling activities until Dec. 31, 2025, and incurred a fine. 

Barrett “played an active role in the fraud” and was suspended until Sept. 1, 2024. The four riders received reprimands. 

Cynisca Cycling has been banned from the next race on the UCI International Calendar and fined an unknown amount.