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Chief executive questions British Cycling board’s role in sexism investigation

UK Sport’s chief executive, Liz Nicholl, emailed British Cycling to ask for an explanation as to how the board came to clear Shane Sutton on eight of nine charges of misconduct stemming from the allegations made by Jess Varnish last year.

Nicholl questioned why UK Sport had not been fully informed of the facts and said it was “a surprise” to hear that the British Cycling board had been involved in making the findings.

A Freedom of Information Act request by Press Association Sport revealed the contents of a December 14 email from Nicholl to British Cycling’s then-chairman and president, Bob Howden, following a conversation between the two the day before.

Nicholl asked Howden to explain how the board reached its decision on Sutton and restated a request for “copies of the policy applied”.

She added: “I also questioned why UK Sport had not been fully informed of the facts. It was a surprise to hear of the board’s involvement of anything other than ensuring due process and handling reputation management, and a shock to hear it revealed in the media that 8/9 of the complaints considered by the internal review [had] not been upheld.”

The internal British Cycling investigation, which was led by board member Alex Russell, upheld Jess Varnish’s complaint. However, it later transpired that Sutton had only been found guilty of one of nine charges – that he used the word “bitches”.

Nicholl criticised Howden for making the “incorrect assumption” that UK Sport’s board would have been told about Russell’s investigation as part of the independent review looking at the climate and culture within British Cycling’s World Class Programme.

A British Cycling spokesperson explained that interviewees had, “provided information on the understanding it would be confidential and shared only with the British Cycling board and with the independent review panel”.

Last week it emerged that Nicholl had accused British Cycling of covering up the most damaging findings of a report commissioned after the London 2012 Olympic Games.

A summary was sent in December 2012 which made no mention of bullying, despite it being one of the main findings.

Having only now seen the full version of the report as part of the independent review, Nicholl said that British Cycling had been guilty of “a lack of transparency” in passing on a “very light touch version” previously.

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