top of page
  • Writer's picturedirtyheart

A Call for Stricter Regulations in Cycling: Safeguarding Our Riders

In February 2023, Cycling South Africa received troubling reports via their online whistleblower portal. (Read the story here) The allegations pointed to Shaun-Nick Bester, a UCI level 4 certified coach, accused of sexual grooming, harassment, and abuse. These reports illuminated a darker side of the cycling world and underscored the critical need for stricter regulation and oversight in coaching, especially for young athletes.

Bester's actions, which were in clear violation of UCI and Cycling South Africa’s safeguarding policies, have brought to the forefront the vulnerabilities faced by young riders, particularly girls and women. The independent investigation conducted by The Guardian revealed severe misconduct by Bester, including harassment and introducing pornography to his underage athletes. These revelations have shaken the cycling community and highlighted the urgent need for comprehensive protective measures.

The Role of Cycling Bodies in Bringing Incidents to Light

Cycling South Africa's commitment to addressing these issues head-on is commendable. They refused to accept Bester’s proposal for a lenient suspension and non-disclosure agreement, opting instead for a thorough disciplinary process. The ultimate decision, delivered in October 2023, resulted in Bester being found guilty of all charges and initially receiving a lifetime ban. Although this was later reduced to a 15-year ban followed by a lifelong suspended sentence, the message was clear: misconduct will not be tolerated.

This case underscores the importance of national cycling bodies like Cycling South Africa in maintaining the integrity of the sport and protecting its athletes. Their whistleblower function provides a crucial platform for victims to report misconduct anonymously, ensuring that perpetrators can be held accountable. It is essential for such mechanisms to be robust and accessible, encouraging more victims to come forward without fear of retribution.

The Vulnerability of Young Riders and the Importance of Exposure

The courage of the young women who exposed Bester’s misconduct cannot be overstated. By stepping forward, they have not only taken a stand against their abuser but have also paved the way for other victims to do the same. Their bravery is a stark reminder of the power of speaking out and the importance of creating an environment where young riders feel safe and supported in reporting abuse.

This incident also highlights the necessity for all coaches to be registered and regulated by national bodies. It should not be easy for anyone to exploit their position of authority, and stringent background checks and continuous monitoring should be mandatory. Coaches play a pivotal role in the development of young athletes, and their influence must be positive and nurturing, free from any form of exploitation.

Advocating for Women's Rights in Sports

Women's rights in sports must be fiercely protected. The violations committed by Bester are not just personal betrayals but also gross violations of the rights of young women to train in a safe and respectful environment. These rights must be upheld by all members of the sports community, from governing bodies to individual coaches.

The cases of abuse in sports, like those involving the USA Gymnastics team and Bob Hewitt, serve as grim reminders of the systemic issues that can exist within sports organizations. Cycling, like any other sport, must remain vigilant against such threats and take proactive steps to safeguard its athletes.

We applaud the young riders who courageously came forward to expose this gross misconduct by a coach in power. Their actions have shown others that it can be done and must be done. The cycling community must rally around these brave individuals, ensuring that their voices lead to meaningful change. We must hold individuals who take advantage of their position in our industry to task. Let us work together as a cycling community, to build a future where cycling is a safe, empowering, and fair sport for everyone.

1 comment

1 Comment

Gwyneth Dickinson
Gwyneth Dickinson
Jun 05

These girls are super brave coming forward!! It must’ve been daunting, but they did it 💪🏻

bottom of page