Brailsford pushes for Olympic track equality

Olympic track programme discriminates against female sprinters

by Barney Fletcher   November 5, 2008  

Manchester Velodrome Media Day 089

British Cycling's performance director, Dave Brailsford has been lobbying for an increase in the number of women's track events for the 2012 London Olympics.

Last weekend during the Manchester round of the track cycling world cup, he had called for more track events to be added to the Olympic roster. Many will have assumed he was talking about the Kilometre time trial, track cycling's blue riband event until it was cut from the Olympic programme in Beijing. 

However, yesterday it emerged that Brailsford is more exercised about the discrepency in the number of sprint events available for men and women to compete in at 2012. Men get three chances to grab Olympic glory: the sprint, team sprint, and keirin, while women only get one: the individual sprint.

Cynics may argue that Brailsford would argue that, British women dominated the sprint events at the recent world cup round, and Britain's women cyclists are if anything stronger then the men – British Cycling's lottery funding is based on medal count, but there is no denying that the situation is unfair, Victoria Pendleton described the situation recently as "particularly sexist". 

According to a report in today's Guardian Brailsford recently met the Olympics Minister, Tessa Jowell to put his case personally and as a result the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is undertaking some research into the issue. The problem is that the decision is not up to the government it is entirely within the gift of the International Olympic Committee which operates a quota system for all sports except athletics and swimming. If the number of women's track events were to increase it might well have to be at the expense of other cycling events.

The IOC would also look to the Union Cycliste International (UCI) for guidance on such a decision, and last time they were asked to choose they actually cut a track event (the kilo time trial) in order to make room for BMX.

One possible line of argument might be under British and EU anti-discrimination legislation. Brailsford and British Cycling now have eight months to win the argument and convince the IOC of the essential unfairness of the situation before the programme for London 2012 is finalised.