Annamarie Phelps, the Chair of British Rowing, a trustee and vice chair of the British Paralympic Association and a board member of the British Olympic Association is to oversee an independent review into British Cycling’s World Class Programme. While the review will begin imminently, it will not conclude until after the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The review will look into all forms of discrimination and bullying with specific focus on the climate and culture of British Cycling’s World Class Programme.
Liz Nicholl, CEO of UK Sport, 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 announcement comes as riders continue to speak out both for and against Shane Sutton, who resigned from his position as technical director on Wednesday.
Following Jessica Varnish’s claim that Sutton told her to ‘go and have a baby’ and subsequent allegations that he referred to para-cyclists as ‘gimps’ and ‘wobblies’, three current riders in the squad have now told The Guardian that he called women ‘bitches’ and ‘sheilas’ and once referred to a non-white rider as a ‘dirty terrorist’ when he turned up for a race with stubble. The riders, who asked to remain anonymous, suggest that others are not speaking out for fear of losing out on Olympic places.
Earlier in the week, BMX rider Kelvin Batey, who rode for Great Britain until 2008, said: "There was one point where I thought about stepping into the road and ending it all.” He then added: "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."
Others, however, have defended Sutton. Dani King, part of the quartet that won team pursuit gold at London 2012, said she never experienced any sexism. She felt that Sutton was equally tough on both men and women.
Speaking to Sky Sports, she said:
"I feel for Jess being taken off the programme, she's a good friend of mine, but in terms of the allegations, personally I've never experienced it myself. 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.
"But in terms of it just being for the women, that's definitely not true. It's both cases and it's just the way he works. He's a great motivator and it's a shame what has happened."
Rochelle Gilmore, the team manager of the Wiggle High5 women’s cycling team for which King currently rides, said Sutton had also worked well with former team members Joanna Rowsell Shand and Laura Trott. “He really cares about them at heart and when they were performing at their lowest was when they had the most support from him.”
Team Sky’s Luke Rowe tweeted: “Some people asking me what I think of Shane Sutton. The answer is he’s a great guy with a big heart that has done a lot for me and the sport.”
While also taking time to bemoan fundamental inequality in the sport, Geraint Thomas said of his personal experience working with Sutton, that he was, “one of the main reasons I am where I am today,” before adding: “He's done more than most for British Cycling.”
In a statement on his website, Sir Chris Hoy said that he didn’t want to comment on the allegations against Sutton but instead paid tribute to what he’d achieved for British Cycling.
“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. Shane expected 100% commitment from every member of the team regardless of their role and he led by example in that respect. As a coach, his uncompromising approach yielded unparalleled results for the GB team and his contribution to my career and the entire British Cycling success story was outstanding. For this, I would like to sincerely thank him.”
Hoy also linked to a 2009 Guardian article entitled ‘My mentor’ in which he describes Sutton as, “so intense that there are times that the only thing you can do is fall out with him. Half the time you want to throttle the guy and the other half you are trying to get into his good books.”