Vienna - Belarussian rider Branislau Samoilau escaped punishment for allegedly
racially abusing a member of the African MTN-Qhubeka team during the Tour of
Austria, organisers said on Friday.
MTN filed a complaint with the UCI race jury after Wednesday's fourth stage,
claiming its Eritrean rider Natnael Berhane had been victim of racist remarks
by Samoilau, who rides for the Polish CCC Sprandi Polkowice team.
"The issue has been resolved," Tour of Austria spokesperson Martin
Roseneder told The Associated Press. "Both teams and riders have cleared
the air between them. Branislau Samoilau has apologised for what he calls a
misunderstanding in communication."
According to Roseneder, the race jury "has decided not to take further
action as both riders have meanwhile settled their quarrel."
MTN spokesman Veit Hammer said Samoilau will have to make a donation to the
team's foundation, which is collecting money to buy 5 000 bikes for African
Qhubeka is the World Bicycle Relief program in South Africa, a non-profit
organisation that hands out bikes to people for their work done in local
communities or for the environment.
Samoilau allegedly used a racially abusive word when shouting at Berhane
during the 210-kilometer stage from Gratwein to Villach in the Austrian Alps.
The fourth-ranked Berhane trailed overall leader Jan Hirt of Czech Republic
by 15 seconds going into Friday's stage. Hirt is a team-mate of Samoilau's.
"In the heat of the battle some words have been said by our rider,
which were very unfortunate and unacceptable," said a statement by CCC.
"Before the next stage the situation has been clarified between the two
teams and the riders, but we don't want to get into details."
Hammer said the MTN team was also targeted by racist insults at the Spanish
Vuelta last year.
"It is totally unacceptable," Hammer said. "We've reached out
to the UCI and race organizers. It's for them to handle the case. It's an
education process. Cycling is a global sport with a lot of different cultures.
Cultures don't divide people, it's people that divide people."