A high-profile member of the sport of motocross is being investigated for allegedly using pepper spray on a competitor during a karting race at Pinehurst on Sunday.
Tyler Sklar was allegedly sprayed after the star Karting Australia star bumped a rival at the beginning of the sixth lap.
After being interviewed by police, Sklar claimed that the driver in question was aggressive from the start and suggested that race safety was compromised.
The 25-year-old from Sydney was hospitalized overnight but returned to the track later in the day, finishing second in the classic racer group.
Sklar has posted on social media, thanking his doctors and team for taking care of him after the attack.
In a statement, race organizer Pi Group Racing said they were investigating the incident and in talks with police.
“Pi Group Racing is aware of the incident that occurred yesterday during racing at Pinehurst and is liaising with law enforcement officials. There is an ongoing police investigation and Pi Group Racing is working closely with them to understand the full circumstances surrounding the incident.
“Pi Group Racing is also aware of the athlete in question and is in direct discussion with the authorities to establish the full facts and circumstances regarding this matter.
“As part of that process Pi Group Racing will undertake an independent risk assessment and, should the findings indicate that there was potential concern regarding the athlete and his conduct, then Pi Group Racing would consider supporting the rider and consider all legal options.”
The team said it would not be ready to discuss Sklar’s situation until next week but appeared to be standing by him.
“Our primary focus is ensuring that the rider is fine and his health is not compromised. We will continue to work with police to ascertain the specific nature of what happened and will make further statements at the appropriate time,” it said.
“Everyone should appreciate Pi Group Racing is a global organization with strong experience managing high-profile athletes. Our priority will be maintaining the utmost care of the rider involved and ensuring he receives all support he needs at this time.”
A Pi Group Racing representative also accused the rival of deliberate bumping.
“We’re concerned that to start with, a Kazzuna athlete decided to use aggressive tactics to engage the Karting Australia competitor in a head-to-head tussle at the start,” the spokesman said.
“He should have known better as he should be aware of the potential impact his actions could have on the rest of the field. I’m told there was a two-shot spray which had little to no effect as it was a relatively standard spray used for safety reasons.
“We’re aware the Kazzuna driver tried to engage the Karting Australia competitor in a head-to-head tussle but it was met with neither fight nor recrimination.
“The Karting Australia competitor then decided to violate the race rules to antagonize a group of spectators in a separate paddock area. As this has happened again, Kazzuna president Pat Spedding put his fingers into our driver’s mouth and jabbed him with what our driver described as a hair spray canister, which sprayed in his face.”
The spokesperson said the team was sickened by the incident.
“I also feel particularly saddened that this has taken place in North Carolina, the home of American supercross and so many historic Kazzuna events over the years,” the spokesperson said.
“We’d like to say something for our supporter, who has continued to support us through this difficult situation, and all Karting Australia fans. In sporting codes across the globe, a person’s treatment by a competitor will be looked into, in the name of fairness.
“However, a sportsman’s protection has to be upheld as well. We know Tyler from the event on Sunday. He is a track superstar who is simply a race winner and a great ambassador for the sport. He’s a top, top human being, one you’d probably be proud to have as a neighbor. We hope the facts are known and the Kazzuna rider is held accountable for his actions.”