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Triathlete Survives Nightmare in Abu Dhabi

CHICAGO (CN) - A professional triathlete claims he was held for five weeks in Abu Dhabi and forced to pay $54,000 in blood money to escape, after crashing his bike in the poorly planned Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.

Andrew Starykowicz sued International Management Group in Federal Court.

Starykowicz claims he was invited to the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, sponsored by London-based International Management Group (IMG) on March 3, 2012.

He entered the long course race - a 3-kilometer swim, a 200-kilometer bike race and a 20-kilometer run - with a first prize of $50,000.

IMG organized the bike course with aid stations in the center of the road, between the passing lanes of the course, Starykowicz says in the lawsuit: "This meant that riders would be required to slow down and cross through the passing lanes to receive food, water, and other aid.

"As the race progressed, the volunteers realized that this placement of the aid carts between the passing lanes was dangerous. On their own, they began to gather on the curbsides of the inbound and outbound courses in order to hand out food and water to riders pulling to the outer curb from the riding lanes.

"This action by the volunteers served only to increase the danger, however," he says in the complaint.

Starykowicz claims had a 6-minute lead on the pack when a volunteer, (nonparty) Carly Ann Williams, of the United Kingdom, darted out in front of him, and he collided hard with her, flying over the handlebars, and landing on his right shoulder.

He finished the bike ride, but was unable to complete the run, and he was treated at a hospital for bruising and minor tears, Starykowicz says.

Williams was more seriously injured, and was treated for head injuries for six weeks, including being placed in a medically induced coma, Starykowicz says in the complaint.

The day after the race, during a tour of Abu Dhabi with other athletes, "Starykowicz was taken aside by IMG and told that there was a warrant out for his arrest." He was escorted to a police station by IMG officials.

"Starykowicz was questioned by U.A.E. police for approximately 3 hours on the afternoon of March 4, 2012, and was then placed in a holding cell with 3 others for over 20 hours. He was also questioned for two additional hours by the prosecutor," according to the complaint.

Despite the fact he was riding on a closed bike race course, the United Arab Emirates charged him with jeopardizing pedestrians' safety and hitting a pedestrian, and confiscated his passport and his bike, he says.

"Starykowicz subsequently was detained in the U.A.E. for approximately five weeks until the attorney general decreed that, if a so-called 'blood money' requirement of AED 200,000, or about U.S. $54,000 was paid in cash, his passport would be released. The U.A.E. authorities explained that the required 'blood money' would be paid to the family of Ms. Williams, should she die from her injuries, and would be returned to Starykowicz if she recovered," the complaint states.

He paid the blood money and was allowed to return to the United States, where doctors found that his injuries were more serious than mere bruises and minor tears, Starykowicz says.

"In particular, as a result of the accident, the head of his humerus was shoved completely through his labrum, he suffered a broken collarbone, a separation of the acromioclavicular joint, and brachial plexopathy," injuries which were left untreated for five weeks during his detention in the U.A.E.

As a result he was unable to compete in any triathlon events until October 2012, he says.

Although Starykowicz set a world record at the 2013 U.S. Ironman, he believes his injuries prevent him from reaching his full potential.

He seeks more than $75,000 in damages for negligence, including the prize money he believes he would have won in Abu Dhabi.

He is represented by John Walker of the Waveland Law Group.

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