Review into bigotry will run until after Olympics
Allegations of bullying in British cycling will hang over sport until September
THE independent review into allegations of bullying and discrimination at British Cycling will conclude after August’s Olympic and September’s Paralympic Games in Rio.
In a joint statement, British Cycling and UK Sport announced Annamarie Phelps, the chair of British Rowing, would lead the review, which follows allegations made against former British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton.
One of the key questions in the review will be to answer if “there [are] fundamental behavioural issues within the climate and culture of British Cycling”, the statement said.
Sutton stood down on Wednesday, with 100 days to go to the Rio Olympics.
The 58-year-old Australian had been suspended by British Cycling a day earlier after it was claimed he called Paralympic cyclists “gimps”, shortly after the independent review was announced into claims of sexism made by Jess Varnish. Sutton denies the claims.
Phelps, who rowed at the 1996 Olympics, is also a trustee and vice-chair of the British Paralympic Association and a board member of the British Olympic Association.
She said: “I fully understand the importance of leading this enquiry. I will do so to my best abilities and in the best interest of sport in the UK.”
British Cycling president Bob Howden described the allegations as “extremely disturbing”.
He added: “We will not shy away from taking whatever action is necessary.”
The UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl said: “UK Sport expects the highest level of ethical and professional standards from its funded athletes, athlete support personnel and national governing bodies. Winning is worth nothing if it is not done fairly, equitably and with the greatest integrity.
“The allegations made by current and former athletes about British Cycling’s world-class programme over the past week have been deeply troubling to UK Sport, and any long term cultural issues within the programme must therefore be fully investigated.”
The joint statement said the review would begin “imminently” and conclude after September’s Paralympics “to minimise the disruption to British Cycling’s final preparations for Rio, while allowing athletes and support personnel to play a full role in the review”.
Nicholl will be part of a commissioning board, alongside Marian Lauder MBE, non-executive director of British Cycling, to ensure the review panel, appointed by Phelps, is supported.
The panel will have a balance of skills, including from an athlete’s perspective, and then determine the exact review process. The statement added: “The key findings and recommendations of the review will be published, following its conclusion, ensuring confidentiality for those who wish to give evidence.”
The terms of reference said the review “must include, but is not limited to, all forms of discrimination and bullying”.
The statement added: “Specific questions/issues to be covered by the review: Are there fundamental behavioural issues within the climate and culture of British Cycling world class programme?
“If so, what are they and what recommendations can be made on how they should be addressed?” Nicholl praised the British Cycling leadership for “quickly recognising the severity of these allegations and establishing this joint review”.
British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake insists he was not aware of the allegations of discrimination towards para-cyclists. Two separate sources have stated that Drake was aware of claims of bullying and discrimination against Sutton and did not act.
Drake said yesterday: “I have never been made aware, formally or informally, of any allegation that Shane Sutton had used the offensive term ‘gimps’ in reference to Paralympic athletes prior to the media reports of the past few days.
“The suggestion that I would have not acted on such an allegation is wholly wrong.”
An internal performance review conducted after the London 2012 Games saw more than 40 riders and staff interviewed.
But the post-London 2012 report, written by Peter King, Drake’s predecessor as the organisation’s chief executive until 2008, was not published or made available to senior personnel. It remains confidential.
British Cycling said the report would be made available in the independent review process.
UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Shane Sutton stepped down as technical director of British Cycling earlier this week