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by Shane Stokes
December 22, 2017
Trump’s Jerusalem decision leads to Israel Cycling Academy’s sole Muslim rider leaving team; Bugno announces intention to run for third term as CPA president; UKAD turns down freedom of information request relating to Wiggins jiffy bag affair; Remembering Sharon Laws; Video: King of the Mountains; Video: Be strong [Cycling Motivation]
The effects of Donald Trump’s backing of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital have ratcheted up tensions in the area, and may yet have an effect on the decision to stage the start of next year’s Giro d’Italia there. But there has been a more immediate outcome relating to cycling: Ahmet Orken, the Muslim rider signed by the Israel Cycling Academy, has left the squad.
When Orken joined the team the squad said it was proof that it was above politics. He signed a two-year contract in September and recently attended the team’s first training camp. As part of that he was named as a Peace Ambassador by the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
However, in the wake of the decision by Trump – which has led to criticism by, and tensions with, Palestine, the UN and others – Okren has decided that he should not continue with the squad. According to an Israel Cycling Academy statement, in the days after Trump’s announcement Orken contacted the team and said that he wanted to have his contract dissolved. It said that he cited ‘the effect that the recent events in the middle East had on me and my family.’
The team said that its general manager Ran Margaliot travelled to the Turkish champion’s hometown of Konya, asking him to reconsider. After what it said was ‘intensive discussions’ with he and his family, the rider said that he would take some time to weigh things up. However he later told the team that he wanted to be released.
“This is heartbreaking for all of us,” said Margaliot in the statement. “Ahmet is a great athlete and a great person. He joined our program with a vision and commitment to putting sport–and with it, peace–above politics.”
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