The cycling federation of Qatar — a country where foreign workers are subjected to forced labour and prostitution — announced Sunday that it had disinvited the world’s No. 1 cycling team, Belgian-based Etixx-Quick-Step, because its riders take too long to change clothes after races, take too long to do interviews, and take too long to get to the podium ceremonies.
The news came on the eve of the five-day Tour of Qatar race, which attracts the world’s top teams and finishes Friday.
“I’ve decided not to send them an invitation despite their wish to participate,” Qatar Cycling Federation President Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Thani told a press conference in Doha on Sunday, AFP reported.
“On several occasions the team has displayed disciplinary problems,” he explained. “For example, they take too long to change and give interviews even though they are expected on live television, and they take too long to reach the podium.”
The sheikh accused the team of “lacking respect.”
The organiser of the Tour of Qatar, the Amaury Sport Organisation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider. Nor did the Etixx team.
Etixx have dominated the Tour of Qatar, with Tom Boonen winning four editions (2006, 2008, 2009, 2012) and Niki Terpstra successful in 2014 and 2015. The Belgian outfit won more races than any other team in 2015.
‘Women who migrate for work are also forced into prostitution’
“Qatar does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” according to the CIA World Factbook, though “it is making significant efforts to do so.”
The CIA also notes:
The predominantly foreign workforce migrates to Qatar legally but often experiences situations of forced labour, including debt bondage, delayed or nonpayment of salaries, confiscation of passports, abuse, hazardous working conditions, and squalid living arrangements; foreign female domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to trafficking because of their isolation in private homes and lack of protection under Qatari labour laws; some women who migrate for work are also forced into prostitution
Qatar dismissed as “groundless” in December a claim that as many as 7,000 people would die working on projects for the 2022 World Cup, AFP reported.
In January, Human Rights Watch said: “Qatari labour reforms enacted in 2015 failed to provide meaningful protection to low-paid migrant workers and left them acutely vulnerable to trafficking and forced labour.”
Qatar is also hosting the UCI World Road Championships later this year.
Launched in 2002, the Tour of Qatar was the first major cycling event in the Middle East, VeloNews reported, paving the way for other events, such as the Tour of Oman, the Dubai Tour, and the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Last year, cycling’s hour-record holder, Bradley Wiggins, said it’s “horrible” racing in Qatar and no racer enjoys it.
Some observers have criticised races making a push into countries with poor human-rights records, such as Qatar. Popular cycling blog Bike Snob NYC lashed out saying “cycling and ethical bankruptcy have always gone together.”