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Eurosport 'to stand by' under-fire commentator after on-air homophobic slur

Eurosport will reportedly keep using cycling commentator Robbie McEwen despite controversy over him using a homophobic slur live on air.

McEwan, 49, enjoyed a distinguished career on the bike, winning the Tour de France points classification three times. Once considered the world's fastest sprinter, he retired in 2012 following the Tour of California.

But his voice has remained prominent in the sport, regularly commentating on the Tour de France. And he's currently part of the Eurosport team covering the Giro d’Italia, widely considered the sport's second biggest event. However, the Australian, who also competed at three Olympic Games, came under fire for using the term "fudge packer" during Tuesday's coverage.

A co-commentator had made an anecdote describing visiting a fudge shop during a lunch break, joking he'd nearly finished it all before making it back to work.

"You’ve gone in the fudge shop and you’ve consumed it straight away," McEwan said, before somewhat dubiously adding: "The fudge packers were wasting their time."

The conversation was swiftly altered, and it wasn't until Thursday that the Brisbane man moved to apologise for what he said. On Twitter, he wrote: "I unintentionally used an offensive phrase during my commentary on Stage 10, and I regret both saying it and not immediately apologising on air.

The Giro d'Italia reached stage 13 on Friday (Getty Images)

"I’m genuinely sorry for the language I used, and for letting the team down, but mostly I want to say sorry to anyone who I offended." Global Cycling Network, who provide race coverage for Eurosport, also apologised and removed the section of commentary from its highlights show.

"Cycling is a sport for all and everyone should feel welcome," they tweeted. "We chose not to publish Stage 10 coverage until an offensive phrase was removed and we apologise to anyone offended during the broadcast. The full stage will soon be available in English without this section of commentary."

According to the Daily Mail , Eurosport bosses have accepted the apology and will continue to use McEwen. Mirror Sport contacted Eurosport, who made no further comment on the matter.

Cycling fans have moved to make their feelings on the saga known. @EvanMDarling wrote: "I'm a cyclist, racer and a Gay man living in a country where living truthfully is challenging every day. Commentary that mocks can be painful, especially when said by people you respect/enjoy listening to."

@ambivalent added: "I don't think you meant to use the phrase out of bigotry or hate. But lazy jokes reinforce barriers in cycling that need to fall. On a day when one far-too-old barrier was broken, a schoolboy joke simply propped up another. Apologies are nice, but don't break down barriers."

Some followers though, did sympathise with the Australian, with @kyle2point saying: "It was extremely clear you meant nothing by it, you said it shortly after Rob talked about eating it straight away, it was used in a literal sense and seemed to be the correct term to use."