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The Guardian - AU

Robbie McEwen apologises for using ‘offensive phrase’ during Giro d’Italia broadcast

The Giro d’Italia peloton on stage 10 of this year’s race.
Robbie McEwen has apologised to his broadcast team and ‘anyone who I offended’ after using a homophobic phrase during commentary on this year’s Giro d’Italia. Photograph: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Robbie McEwen, the former cyclist and now commentator, has apologised for using a homophobic slur during a broadcast of stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia.

The Australian three-time Tour de France points classification winner, who retired from professional cycling in 2012, said he “unintentionally” used the phrase during commentary on Eurosport and GCN+ earlier this week.

“I unintentionally used an offensive phrase during my commentary on stage 10, and I regret both saying it and not immediately apologising on air,” McEwen tweeted.

“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.”

McEwen, who in his heyday was classed as one of the sport’s fastest sprinters, was discussing his lunch with co-commentator Rob Hatch during the broadcast of Wednesday’s stage when Hatch shared how he had bought some fudge on his way back from his break, only to have eaten it already.

McEwen responded: “You’ve gone in the fudge shop and you’ve consumed it straight away. The fudge packers were wasting their time.”

“Fudge packer” is a derogatory term for a homosexual male.

McEwen apologised 48 hours later after several posts on social media highlighted the use of the slur.

Global Cycling Network, which provides coverage of the Italian grand tour for Eurosport, also apologised on Thursday and said the commentary had been removed from its highlights show.

“Cycling is a sport for all and everyone should feel welcome. We chose not to publish stage 10 coverage until an offensive phrase was removed and we apologise to anyone offended during the broadcast,” GCN said in a tweet.

“The full stage will soon be available in English without this section of commentary.”

McEwen took part in 12 Tours de France, winning the points classification three times between 2002 and 2006 and 12 stages. He also claimed 12 individual stage wins on the Giro d’Italia and is regarded as one of Australia’s greatest cyclists.

Since retirement he has been a fixture of cycling coverage on TV. Earlier this year, he was released from his role with the Australian broadcaster SBS, with the network saying it would take a “different approach” to their commentary.

“Robbie has been a valued member of our cycling commentary lineup for a number of events over the last six years,” a spokesperson said at the time. “But we’re exploring a different approach in 2022. While his contract has come to an end, we thank Robbie for all that he’s brought to the role during his time with us.”