x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Police held Abu Dhabi triathlon competitor overnight after crash

US triathlete speaks out about accident that severely injured a volunteer at Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in March.

Andrew Starykowicz says he regrets the crash that left a volunteer with head injuries.
Andrew Starykowicz says he regrets the crash that left a volunteer with head injuries.

Four months after a triathlete crashed into a volunteer at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, causing her severe head injuries, the athlete has admitted that he was held overnight by police pending an investigation.

In a blog entry last week, American triathlete Andrew Starykowicz caused controversy among the triathlete community by intimating that he had been held by authorities for an extended period.

The controversy stemmed from an accident during the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon when Starykowicz crashed into Carly Williams, a British volunteer. Ms Williams remained in hospital for several months, and is now recovering in the UK, her family said on Tuesday in a statement.

In an interview this week, Starykowicz said he was advised by race organisers to go to police and later spent a night in an Abu Dhabi jail for what he said was deemed a motoring offence.

A heated blog post on Starykowicz's website dated June 20 and titled "I Did Time", ignited reaction from the triathlon community. Triathlete magazine reported that many had been led to believe that he had been held for a significant period of time.

An Abu Dhabi International Triathlon spokesman said organisers had provided an attorney for Starykowicz, who spent several weeks navigating the justice system and trying to get his passport back. The spokesman said: "He was to remain in the country until a full police investigation was concluded and agreed. This is standard practice as the volunteer suffered severe head injuries and was in an induced coma for the initial stages of her recovery."

Mr Starykowicz took out a bank loan, for an amount under US$100,000, from the US to pay a bond so he could leave the country.

"As an Abu Dhabi event, we must adhere to the laws of the UAE when a serious incident occurs," race organisers said. "All athletes and participants are fully insured by the event organisers and all support is fully afforded."

Starykowicz said he regretted the situation. "I feel incredibly bad it has happened. I waited for medical personnel to arrive at the scene and I could do nothing but hinder the situation," he said. He carried on in the race but pulled out after another 30km because of his own injuries.

He was examined at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), where he received X-rays, and later went to the Dubai Joint and Bone Centre for an MRI. He said neither diagnosed his broken collarbone - it was later diagnosed in the United States - and he recently underwent surgery to repair a tear to his labrum, the cartilage around the shoulder socket.

The family of Ms Williams, in a statement issued on Tuesday, said she is continuing her rehabilitation in the UK. "Miss Williams and her family would like to thank the medical staff at SKMC for the excellent care she received and the community for its support. They also wish to express their confidence in the police and authorities in their actions."

Starykowicz said he was pleased that Ms Williams was recovering: "For the people who know me, this is something I would never want to happen to the worst of my foes."

The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority sponsored the March 3 event.

"The event is run in line with the highest international safety standards. All volunteers are briefed beforehand of the safety requirements and are managed on-site by a team leader. In addition, all triathletes are briefed on all safety matters prior to the race start," organisers said. "Whilst safety is our chief concern, this is a high-intensity professional sporting event and unfortunately accidents can occur."

The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority stressed that athletes who participate in international events "understand that they need to cooperate with local authorities to ensure all parties involved are looked after sufficiently".

No criminal charges were filed against Starykowicz. His bond money remains in place.

eharnan@thenational.ae