Nacer Bouhanni winning a stage on the Saudi Tour in February 2020
Paris (AFP) - The International Cycling Union (UCI) on Wednesday offered its support to French rider Nacer Bouhanni, who said earlier this week that he was being deluged with racist insults on social media.
The former French road race champion said he had received “hundreds” of racist messages on social media since his shoulder charge on British rider Jake Stewart in a race in France on March 21.
“It’s too much now, it’s turned into harassment,” the 30-year-old sprinter told Tuesday’s L’Equipe.
The day after the race the UCI referred the incident to its disciplinary committee but on Wednesday joined Stewart in condemning the attacks on Bouhanni.
The UCI issued a statement saying it “wishes to firmly condemn the racist attacks aimed at the French rider Nacer Bouhanni on social media following his disqualification for dangerous conduct during the final sprint at the Cholet-Pays de la Loire”.
“However serious the fault of the French rider,” the statement continued. “Nothing justifies the insults he has been subject to.”
Stewart, who suffered a broken hand which ruled hm out of last Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, tweeted his indignation.
“Despite our recent difference of opinion, let’s be absolutely clear, I stand united with BouhanniNacer. We will all agree and disagree on certain things, but one thing that should not be of question is racism.”
“The comments and racism directed towards Nacer this last week is absolutely deplorable,” Stewart went on. “To the so called ‘fans’ of cycling that have made these comments, you are not welcome here.”
Bouhanni said he was suffering from insomnia as a result of the abuse.
“Why doesn’t anyone do anything when these sort of lowlife people are persistently telling me I’m a ‘pig’ or a ‘terrorist’, or ‘go back to your dirty north African country’,” he told the L’Equipe.
“It’s like a scar that is closed, but is reopening little by little as the days pass, and that’s what hurts.
“I was born in France, I love my country, I was French champion when I was 21, being on the podium with the Marseillaise playing was one of the best moments of my career.
“I’m proud of my name, I’m proud of my roots, I’m French with north African origins, that’s how it is.”
He said he had never been the target of racism in the peloton nor in any of his teams, “but outside of competition, for sure I’ve had it”.
Bouhanni’s team Arkea-Samsic backed their rider on Monday.
“He has decided to take legal action and we offer him our full support.”
Bouhanni has 69 victories, including three Giro d’Italia stages and three in the Vuelta a Espana.