The Maryland Cycling Classic started with one rider less than expected, and in the era of COVID-19, Samuel Mugisha (ProTouch) reporting as a DNS gained little attention. However, it turned out to be quite a different story to the usual race drop-out, with the team announcing that he had been reported missing.
According to the ProTouch team Mugisha flew to the Washington DC Dulles airport as planned on Tuesday, arriving early Wednesday, morning but he failed to appear for his transport to Baltimore.
“The team tried to contact him on Wednesday but his mobile number was not receiving calls or messages,” ProTouch told Cyclingnews. “On Thursday morning, having had no contact, the team and organisers made contact with the police at the airport and reported him as missing.”
It doesn’t appear as if the disappearance is being treated as suspicious.
“The police reviewed the security cameras and confirmed his arrival and [there is a] recording of him on his phone and leaving the airport exit where he got into a vehicle with two people he clearly knew,” said the team. “He did not arrive at the team hotel nor the race he was entered to participate in on Sunday.”
Mugisha, 24, last raced at the Commonwealth Games in Warwick last month and was due to compete in the inaugural Maryland Cycling Classic on Sunday. The team have tried to reach him on his email, social media and via cell phone, but he has not responded.
“We do not know his intention at this time but he missed his return flight to Rwanda today. So one can assume he plans to stay at this time.”
ProTouch expressed their dissatisfaction with the rider going AWOL in the United States because obtaining visas for African riders has been a difficult and laborious undertaking that has affected the careers of many professional Africans trying to race in Europe or the United States.
“Sadly, this irresponsible behaviour has far-reaching consequences to an already challenging process of getting visas for African riders. Hopefully, it won’t undo all the hard work being done to streamline this process and enable more athletes to compete internationally,” the team said.
Whether or not Mugisha will face disciplinary action when and if he is found remains to be seen.
“No decision has been made at this time regarding his contract with the team. We will seek advice in this regard in due course,” the team statement concluded.