South African cyclist Shaun-Nick Bester banned for 15 years

Cycling South Africa has suspended Shaun-Nick Bester from the sport for 15 years for misconduct related to sexual grooming of minors. Image via Unsplash

Top SA cyclist banned for 15 years for ‘inappropriate sexual conduct’ and ‘grooming’ of minors

Cycling South Africa has suspended Shaun-Nick Bester from the sport for 15 years for misconduct related to sexual grooming of minors.

South African cyclist Shaun-Nick Bester banned for 15 years

Cycling South Africa has suspended Shaun-Nick Bester from the sport for 15 years for misconduct related to sexual grooming of minors. Image via Unsplash

Cycling South Africa (CSA) has announced Shaun-Nick Bester has been suspended from the sport for 15 years after being found guilty of misconduct related to sexual grooming, harassment and abuse of minors.

Bester is the son of South African road running great and 1991 Comrades Marathon winner, Nick Bester.

Cycling South Africa statement

The former professional road rider and Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) certified coach for Bester Performance Coaching and TrainingPeaks was accused in February 2023 of violating UCI and Cycling South Africa safeguarding policies.

A statement on CSA’s official website detailed the case.

In February 2023, Cycling South Africa received, on its online whistleblower reporting portal, notices accusing Shaun-Nick Bester, a cyclist licensed with Cycling South Africa who also operated a coaching business as a UCI level 4 certified coach.

The notices accused Bester of sexual grooming, harassment and abuse.

In line with all statues, policies and legislation, Bester’s conduct was in breach of UCI and Cycling South Africa’s codes and safeguarding policies.

The Guardian, an independent consultancy, was contracted to conduct an independent investigation into these allegations. 

The Guardian reported serious misconduct on the part of Bester and the misconduct took place at a school which is a member of Cycling South Africa, and at Bester’s home.

The misconduct involved two young women, one aged 14 and the other 17 at the time of the reported incidents of being sexually harassed and / or introduced to pornography by Bester, their cycling coach.

The report was shared with the Executive Board of Cycling South Africa and Bester. 

Bester, through his legal team, initially requested Cycling South Africa’s executive board to reach an agreement in terms of which he would be suspended for a short period of time and that a non-disclosure agreement would be signed. 

This proposal was rejected by Cycling South Africa and then initiated a disciplinary process to be chaired by an independent chairperson and for the evidence Cycling South Africa to be led by a qualified attorney.

An independent chairperson was appointed to chair the disciplinary enquiry and to make a recommendation in regard to whether Bester was guilty of misconduct and what the appropriate sanction should be.

The disciplinary hearing took place from May to August 2023.

The chair of the disciplinary enquiry delivered his finding and sanction at the end of October 2023. 

Appealed the decision

The independent chairperson found Shaun-Nick Bester guilty of all allegations of misconduct that he should receive a lifetime ban, both in South Africa and internationally and that he should pay Cycling South Africa’s legal costs.

Bester and his legal team appealed the decision. 

SASCOC then appointed an independent appeal panel. 

The appeal panel heard the review on 13 May 2024 and delivered its ruling on 2 June 2024.

The appeal panel concluded that in respect of two of the charges related to one of the victims, the appeal was dismissed, in respect of three of the charges related to the other victim, similarly the appeal was dismissed.

Two of the charges related to one of the victims, the appeal was upheld. 

Bester was found to be guilty of five of the charges of misconduct.

In the finding dealing with the sanction, the appeal panel recorded its awareness to “numerous incidents of inappropriate sexual conduct”. 

The appeal panel also makes mention of issues involving the USA Ladies Gymnastic team, Dr Larry Nasser and the Bob Hewitt cases in this country.

As locus parentis Bester should have shown more discretion and judgment. Instead, he was grooming the victims.

The appeal panel went on to state that despite the safeguarding measures, “the problem still rears its ugly head”.

The appeal panel recorded that in considering an appropriate sanction, there needs to be “some degree of mercy and reasonableness”. 

Lost sponsor

Bester, being a first offender, married and with a child, and coaching cycling as his sole source of income. 

The panel found that a lifelong ban from all cycling activities was inappropriate.

The appeal panel found that a 15-year ban followed by a lifelong suspended sentence would be appropriate.

The appeal panel also found that Bester should pay 80% of Cycling South Africa’s legal costs.

Bester’s bike sponsor, Titan Racing Bikes, immediately ended sponsorship of Bester and Bester Performance Coaching upon reading Cycling South Africa’s announcement of the misconduct and suspension.

Bester is 33 years of age.