A domestic abuse charity has labelled comments made by Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s manager "grossly ignorant and sensitive".
Discussing the exit of rider Sam Bennett to his former team Bora-Hansgrohe, general manager Patrick Lefevere likened the Irish sprinter’s move to “women who still return home after domestic abuse”.
Writing in a column for Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsbald, Lefevere wrote: “For me [Bennett is] the pinnacle of mental weakness.
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“Leaving Bora and moaning to everybody about how he was ‘bullied’ and almost broke and depressed – only to return 14 months later.
“It’s the same as women who still return home after domestic abuse.”
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Refuge, a UK-based domestic abuse charity, have today responded to the Belgian’s comments.
“Lefevere’s remarks, implying that women who return to abusive partners are ‘the pinnacle of mental weakness’, are both grossly ignorant and insensitive’, the charity tweeted.
“It is incredibly hard to escape domestic abuse, survivors deserve respect and support.”
It is not the first time that Lefevere has publicly criticised Bennett.
The Irish sprinter has spent two season’s at Deceuninck-Quick-Step, winning a Tour de France green jersey in 2020, but was forced to pull out of this year’s Tour due to a knee injury.
Lefevere’s team brought in Mark Cavendish as his replacement, proceeding to question the Irishman’s mentality.
“I can't prove he doesn't have knee pain, but I'm starting to think more and more that it's more fear of failure than just pain,” Lefevere said.
In a week where athlete’s mental health has received huge media attention following Simone Biles' withdrawal from the women's team gymnastics events at the Tokyo Olympics, Lefevere wrote extensively on the mental strength of previous riders he had managed.
He wrote: “I’ve never had mentally unstable riders in my team, but there were definitely ‘special ones’.
“Rémi Cavagna is not a nervous guy - his hobby is fishing - but sometimes stress gets to him.
“Some people say that Remco Evenepoel can’t handle a bike, but in the beginning, Rémi was afraid to take a bottle or even raise his hands when he won.
“It’s all between the ears. Tim Declercq is a really intelligent guy, but he ‘choked’ when he has to ride for himself.”
The national domestic abuse helpline can be reached on 0808 2000 247, with more information on Refuge’s website.
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