"She told me that I looked very sexy, that my butt was very beautiful, and it made me feel very uncomfortable." That's why, and for many other things, the Israeli runner Esther Meisels, of 24 years, put land in the middle and decided to leave the Belgian UCI team Health Mate Ladies Team, as recently reported by the website cyclingnews.com, and how the press of the north-western European country has collected. He has done so by directly accusing the general manager of his already exemplary team, Patrick Van Gansen.
An abusive treatment and an inappropriate behavior that also showed their partners Sara Mustonen and Chloë Turblin, who like Meisels have brought all this to the attention of the Ethics Commission of the International Cycling Union. «I hope that measures are taken. Until then I know that I must distance myself. My happiness, my mental well-being and my self-esteem are more important than any bike race and always will be, "said the Israeli on her Instagram, social network in which she herself gave the news of his abandonment.
Meisels started competing internationally in 2017. A year later, it had a great season, being seventh in the UCI White Spot Delta Road. Right after he joined the Health Mate Ladies Team, early this 2019. There he expected his career to begin to take off. He moved to the team's headquarters in Ekeren, a district of the city of Antwerp, and that's where his ordeal began. It was installed in the clubhouse, owned by the general manager, where several of the runners were staying, but she was the one who spent more time there, having no other residence in Europe. Also, he did not receive any salary.
A property that was the usual residence of Van Gansen himself, something the broker said she had not known before deciding to move there. Taking advantage of her situation, the position of power and the illusions of the young woman to compete in a professional team, the manager constantly tried to make favorable treatment in exchange for "unwanted affections". «This started in late January or early February. I made it clear that I was not interested in maintaining any kind of relationship, "said the cyclist. "He always wanted me to give him hugs, but not friendly ones, they were too sensitive. He kissed me a lot on the forehead and even asked me to give him a kiss. He also did it after including my name on the list to run a race ».
Fights and crying
A more than unpleasant situation that was more. "He felt very comfortable commenting on my body. He told me that he had a beautiful butt, that I looked very sexy ». A tense relationship that produced verbal confrontations between both, often due to the lack of understanding with the language, since he does not perfectly master English. "He argued with me about everything and ended up being a personal attack. I'm ashamed to say it but it made me cry many times, and I'm not a person who cries often. I tried to avoid it at all costs by staying in my room all day. I was not going to make the food if he was there, or in the common areas, "he confesses, assuring me that he was" scared ".
Something similar to what she experienced also what endured Sara Mustonen, who in the club was dedicated to helping the young runners, and who left the Belgian team shortly before. "Many things are worrisome in that team, but the comments that qualify as sexual harassment and psychological abuse made me want to leave that environment. He is the boss there and he does everything but I've been in this for 13 years, I've gone through many places, and his behavior is unprofessional. One day I had to change my shirt in a presentation and Van Gansen told me 'that's what I wanted to see, now your contract is insured for next year' ». Mustonen filed a complaint in April and the UCI assured him that they had opened an investigation process. "Some are not ready to talk because they still depend on him. That's the problem. Feeds the dreams of girls to be professionals. They are afraid of losing their contracts ».
Van Gansen denies everything
The general manager of the Health Mate Ladies Team, Van Gansen, denied everything to the same portal, to cyclingnews.com, writing it. "I have a very close relationship with my runners, but with Sara (Mustonen) and Esther (Meisels), this was not the case. I never touched them and never made suggestive comments, "he said. On the relationship with the Israeli said that on occasion he raised his voice, but on issues related to their performance. "She had all the possibilities of being in an UCI team but she did not show that she was a good runner. He does not listen at all to the advice he is given. The problem of some women is that they want to do cycling like men ».
What Van Gansen did recognize was the scene in which he made inappropriate comments about the clothes that Cyclist Esther Meisels was wearing at the time, the last one to leave the club. «At one point, she came down from her room in very short pants and with a shirt that had been knotted under her breasts, with her belly exposed. She came to ask me some things and then I said, 'It's very sexy what you're wearing, but maybe it's too sexy, I could get something out of it. Who knows?'". He recognized that Meisels' reaction was to tell him that he was feeling uncomfortable, and that he was doing it all the time, to what he said: "dress appropriately."
As for the third cyclist who spoke out against him, Chloë Turblin, the manager said that both had had a "love story", but that her parents were not aware. It was they who filed the lawsuit on their behalf. The runner herself denies any personal relationship with Van Gansen. She admits that at first she felt embarrassed by the situations she experienced but that she was surprised to find that other compañeras had gone through the same thing.
(tagsToTranslate) Esther Meisels (t) cyclist