MTN Qhubeka Rider Suffers Racist Abuse
Eritrean champion and MTN Qhubeka cyclist Natnael Berhane was allegedly the subject of racist abuse at the Tour of Austria last week.
As part of the first African team to compete at the Tour de France since the 1950s, MTN-Qhubeka’s Daniel Teklehaimanot became the first African rider to earn the polka dot best climber’s jersey and only the third African ever to wear a leader’s jersey at the Tour de France on Thursday, as the sixth stage of the cycling race came to a close.
But unfortunately the Eritrea born rider was not the only cyclist at the centre of attention, as his compatriot and team member Berhane, who was racing in the Tour of Austria, was allegedly racially abused by a fellow rider from another team.
MTN-Qhubeka complained to the UCI, cycling’s world governing body, to have Belarusian rider Branislau Samoilau, of Pro-Continental team CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice, removed from the remainder of the race for his alleged racial abuse of Berhane.
Samoilau is alleged to have used very offensive language, referring to Berhane as a “f—— n—–” during the stage on Wednesday. Reports from the Telegraph suggest that the Belrussian has paid a month’s salary to the Qhubeka charity, which aims to mobilise Africans by providing them with bicycles, as an apology for his actions.
A spokesperson from Samoilau’s team responded to the allegations in a statement to the Telegraph, saying: “In the heat of the battle some words have been said by our rider, which were very unfortunate and unacceptable. We, as a team, do not tolerate that kind of behaviour and the rider will suffer consequences. Before the next stage the situation has been clarified between two teams and the riders, but we don’t want to get into details.”
MTN-Qhubeka team principle Doug Ryder suggested that racism has dogged the team on more than one occasion, with prejudice and bullying presenting as additional obstacles for his team.
“Racism and saying what was said, that’s unacceptable. We have no tolerance for that at all. Hopefully, it’s an isolated thing. A guy was silly, he’s said something but it’s good that the team has taken a stance against it and he’s realised his mistake,” Ryder said to the press, according to CyclingNews.
Berhane is currently fourth in the overall classification in Austria, and Ryder revealed that he requested that Samoilau not be thrown out of the race.
“Natnael was incredibly upset at the time, because it’s a terrible thing. They had a discussion, the team came and apologised, the rider came and apologised,” added Ryder. “Natnael has forgiven the guy. The UCI wanted to kick him out of the race, but Natnael said no it’s ok.”
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