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British Cycling not in crisis, insists CEO as sport reacts to Shane Sutton departure

Braislford hails Australian's "immense" contribution to GB success...

British Cycling CEO Ian Drake has denied that the governing body is facing a crisis despite the resignation yesterday of technical director Shane Sutton, just 100 days before the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games. His insistence that it will not affect Team GB’s medal chances at Rio comes as the cycling world reacts to news of Sutton’s departure.

Sutton, who had already been accused of sexism by track sprinter Jess Varnish after she was dropped from the Olympic programme, resigned after further allegations emerged that he had used discriminatory language against members of the GB Paracycling team.

Varnish has said that Sutton described her as having a “fat arse” and told her she should forget about cycling and focus on having babies, while paracyclist Darren Kenny said that under the Australian, team members were regularly referred to as “gimps” and “wobblies,” while

The organisation has launched an investigation into the latter allegations, to be conducted in partnership with UK Sport, as well as an independent review of Varnish’s claims. Sutton denies both and says he will defend his name.

Speaking to BBC Sport yesterday, Drake insisted that he was confident the loss of Sutton would not affect the team’s medal chances in Rio this summer, and that the organisation was not in crisis.

"We have to get the independent review right and there is no point having a system where people feel they are not in a supportive environment and not potentially being given a duty of care," he said yesterday evening.

 "Today starts the 100-day countdown to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is absolutely crucial that, as our athletes begin their final preparations for Rio, they are able to do so free of distraction.

"It would have been great to have Shane there, obviously the effect he brings, but with the distraction around him at the moment it potentially would have been detrimental," he added.

"The important thing as well, it's not just about the medals. As an organisation, it's about how we use the medals and we've inspired millions of people to get on the bike on the back of the success of Team GB and the medals and we need to keep doing that in order for the sport to keep growing."

Team Sky Principal Sir Dave Brailsford, whom Sutton replaced at the helm of the Great Britain Cycling Team in 2014, told Sky Sports News: "Shane is one of the best tactical and technical coaches I have worked with. His contribution to the success of British cycling has been immense.

"His sole focus has always been the athletes, and so it's understandable that if he feels this has become a distraction to their preparation for Rio he has put the interests of the team first and decided to stand down.

"Any team would miss a coach of his calibre and inevitably this will be a loss to the organisation at this time in the Olympic cycle.

"However, I am sure he will have established all the structures required for the team to optimise their chances of success in Rio," Brailsford added.

Former world Madison champion Rob Hayles suggested that there was a lack of balance to Sutton’s uncompromising approach once he moved into the top job.

Speaking to BBC Sport, he said Sutton was "very good with the riders and the coaching at the mental side," but his "bad cop, bad cop" demeanour didn’t work once he replaced Brailsford.

He agreed that there was a “climate of fear” within British Cycling, saying: "It is true. I think a lot of the riders and staff among them are treading in fear in the velodrome."

Writing in the Guardian, cycling journalist and author William Fotheringham said that Sutton’s resignation had “thrown into chaos” the country’s preparations for Rio, and pointed out that it was cyclists closest to Sutton, such as Laura Trott and Sir Bradley Wiggins, who are among the country’s biggest medal hopes in the velodrome.

He added: “Those around him often felt split emotionally: admiration for his commitment, racing knowledge and his intuitive ability to cut to the chase alongside despair and frustration at behaviour that went beyond the boundaries of what is appropriate.”

Others to come forward and speak out against Sutton in recent days include Nottinghamshire-born BMX rider Kelvin Batey, 34, who rode for Great Britain until 2008 when he switched to Ireland, and who said Sutton “has a lot to answer for.”

Batey said that he had even contemplated suicide due to his treatment at British Cycling. He told BBC Sport: "There was one point where I thought about stepping into the road and ending it all.

"That is how bad and how low it got me. Luckily, I had friends and family who pulled me through and positives came from a low point.

"I have never been that low and will never get get that low again.

"That man has got a lot to answer for because I am sure I am not the only person he has affected at such an extreme level," he added.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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