"This is a criminal act," wrote Patrick Lefevere. The manager of the Deceuninck-Quick-Step cycling team said Dylan Groenewegen's riding style. At the end of the first stage of the Tour of Poland in Katowice on Wednesday, the Dutchman Lefeveres protégé Fabio Jakobsen pushed into the barriers in a sprint for the day's victory - at a speed of around 80 kilometers per hour. Jakobsen fell badly, had to undergo emergency surgery and was in an artificial coma. Lefevere called for Groenewegen to be "put in jail". The public prosecutor is currently investigating. The Berlin sports lawyer Fabian Reinholz explains the legal background and how realistic such a scenario is.
ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Reinholz, can a sporting rule violation be criminally relevant?
Fabian Reinholz : Yes. However, this question is one of the most difficult in sports law. Some lawyers generally deny it. Some say that there is no bodily harm if it is a question of getting on, which is to be expected in the sport. Others argue that, in principle, there are a lot of physical injuries in sport, which are not, however, punishable because the victims, by participating in the competition, almost tacitly consent to the possibility of serious injury.
ZEIT ONLINE: Both variants sound as if unfair athletes have nothing to fear apart from a sports ban.
Reinholz: I see it differently. As I understand it, attacks that are no longer typical of the sport are relevant under criminal law. A gross violation of the set of rules can result in bodily harm. Of course, you have to evaluate each case individually.
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ZEIT ONLINE: What does that mean in relation to Jakobsen's fall?
Reinholz: Dylan Groenewegen grossly disregarded the rule of staying in his own lane in the finish sprint. The rule is for the safety of the athletes. At such a speed it is clear that the drivers can no longer react or maneuver adequately. Jakobsen didn't have to expect that Groenewegen would push him into the barrier. In this respect, it is possible that Groenewegen will be charged and prosecuted at the end of the public prosecutor's investigation.
This is what happened to an amateur soccer player at the end of last year. The Hanover regional court fined him 4,800 euros. He had broken his opponent's shin and fibula in a foul. The court rated the attack as dangerous bodily harm in a less serious case. The defendant fouled unusually brutally and with no chance of the ball at the score of 1: 5 out of frustration. He accepted a serious injury. The hobby kicker now has a criminal record.
ZEIT ONLINE: How often are convictions?
Reinholz: That happens quite often, especially in football. The range of duels and possible consequences that athletes have to expect has limits. A serious foul that obviously only aims to bring the opponent down is not one of them.
ZEIT ONLINE: So is assault always justiciable beyond a game ban?
Reinholz: This conclusion cannot be drawn so broadly. The sport itself assumes that there will be fouling, otherwise it would not impose any sanctions in advance. There are also defined penalties for assault, for example by the football association, so he expects that they can happen.
ZEIT ONLINE: Michael Ballack missed the 2010 World Cup after Kevin-Prince Boateng was fouled and never returned to the national team. What are the chances of suing for financial losses such as lost prize money, canceled advertising deals or lower endowment contracts from the polluter?
Reinholz: Rather critical, among other things because one would have to prove which financial damage is exclusively due to the injury.
ZEIT ONLINE: Are individual athletes only to be held liable?
Reinholz: No, associations and organizations also have a responsibility and can be held liable if people are seriously injured during their competitions. Think of the dead in sports like skiing or Formula 1. The organizer has a duty to maintain safety, including in cycling. He has to make the race so safe that foreseeable damage cannot occur.
ZEIT ONLINE: In the Jakobsen case, the World Cycling Association is also criticized for the route and the unnecessary, dangerous downhill sprint.
Reinholz: If there have been complaints for years that this entry point is dangerous, that could be a clue to hold the organizer liable. And with the barricades flying around that you can see in the pictures, you can't imagine how this route safety device is supposed to prevent injuries to the athletes.
ZEIT ONLINE: So athletes have several options to defend themselves in the event of injuries?
Reinholz: You should be aware of the risk involved in the sport. In the case of civil liability, it is always checked which contributory negligence lies with the injured party. If he himself naively got into a dangerous situation, it may not be possible to fully blame the other party or the organizer for his damage.
Fabio Jakobsen will soon be able to explain his view of the fall himself. On Friday, the doctors took the 23-year-old out of the artificial coma. He is conscious and is no longer artificially ventilated, said the deputy clinic director Pawel Gruenpeter, according to the PAP news agency. Jakobsen could probably go home in two weeks. The doctor thinks a return to the bike is possible. Dylan Groenewegen has since admitted his guilt for the fall. "That was clearly my mistake. I deviated from my line and you are not allowed to do that," he told the Dutch TV channel NOS. His team Jumbo-Visma has suspended the 27-year-old.