It’s been a long old week for British Cycling, but today they outlined the independent review which will investigate discrimination and bullying within the World Class Programme.
Following allegations of discrimination against women and Paralympians, athletes have spoken out in favour of and against Technical Director Shane Sutton – prompting the investigation.
The review will be chaired by Annamarie Phelps. She is also the Chair of British Rowing, a trustee and vice chair of the British Paralympic Association, and a board member of the British Olympic Association. She also rowed for Great Britain at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
Phelps will appoint a panel of experts, who will determine the review process. However, a Commissioning Board will support the panel. The board consists of – rather controversially for an independent review – Marian Lauder MBE, non-executive Director of British Cycling, and Liz Nicholl, CEO of UK Sport.
The review will begin immediately, but will conclude following the Rio Olympics: “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.”
It is stated that the review “will not include British Cycling’s investigation into the alleged misconduct of a member of staff,” but their findings will be considered as part of the process.
The goal will be to identify fundamental issues within the programme, and to seek ways to address these.
Athlete comments regarding the culture of British Cycling’s World Class Programme have been pouring out over recent days.
Female Olympic athletes Victoria Pendleton, Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley and Paralympian Darren Kenny have all accused Sutton of discrimination following sprinter Jess Varnishes’ claims. Kenny claimed Paralympic athletes were called “gimps” and Pendleton said she supported original critic Jess Varnish “wholeheartely”, commenting “I never really felt I had the same respect as my male team-mates.”
Cooke, who took Gold in the 2008 Road Race in Beijing was equally damning – writing: “Welcome to the reality in the world of elite cycling where sexism is by design. Sexism spins all the way down from the top to the bottom.”
However, not everyone has provided corroboratory evidence. Speaking to us on Monday, Jo Rowsell Shand said she felt the women’s endurance squad enjoyed parity with the men’s, saying: “I’ve very lucky to be a funded rider, I’m very lucky to be part of a squad where I would say we’re treated very equally to the men’s team pursuit squad. We’ve got so many world class staff working specifically for our medal. I haven’t got any complaints [of sexism].”
Wiggle High5’s Dani King also supported Sutton, saying: “Shane is just a no-nonsense type of guy and he’s no-nonsense with both the men and the women. I think it works for some people and it doesn’t for others.”
King and Rowsell are both planning, or hoping, for spots at Rio. However, retired Olympian Sir Chris Hoy has also offered his support.
Publishing a statement on his website, he commented: “I do want to pay tribute to Shane for what he’s achieved for British Cycling and for me personally over the years. I have never met anyone who gave so much to their role within any team and who cared so much for the performance of the riders.”
He implored the public to leave the review to come to its conclusions, explaining: “Given the seriousness of the allegations of discrimination, I welcome the independent investigation to be conducted by UK Sport and look forward to contributing if asked to do so. I encourage everyone with an interest in the future of British Cycling to do the same.”
You can read BC’s full statement regarding the review here.