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Sir Dave Brailsford: No 'culture of fear' at British Cycling

Team Sky boss who led national team for a decade will co-operate with discrimination review

Sir Dave Brailsford insists that there is no ‘culture of fear’ at British Cycling and says he will co-operate with the independent review set up to examine allegations of bullying and discrimination in the wake of technical director Shane Sutton’s resignation last week.

Brailsford was performance director at Great Britain from 2003 to 2014, when he left to focus full-time on his role with Team Sky. Sutton, who had worked alongside Brailsford as Team GB’s cyclists dominated the track events at the Beijing and London Olympics, replaced him at the helm of the national team.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, Brailsford said: “It’s really good that this inquiry has been brought in, so we can establish the truth.

“I’m not going to go into the details. What I will do is I’ll share everything that I know with that inquiry.”

He said it was necessary “to get to the bottom of” the allegations. “They need to be heard, they need to be documented properly and addressed properly.”

Besides claims of sexism by track sprinter Jess Varnish – the subject of a separate internal investigation –Darren Kenny alleged that Sutton referred to him and other para-cyclists as “gimps and wobblies.” A number of other riders have said they suffered bullying or discrimination.

But he maintained: “The British Cycling model wasn’t based around motivation through fear or performance through fear.

“It was all around an athlete-centred model. We had a forensic psychiatrist, who was absolutely brilliant, that was in that programme.

“We ran a model which was very much about ownership and trying to give the riders as much ownership as possible over their careers.

“You can’t get performance on a continuous basis over a long period of time through fear. I just don’t believe it.”

The psychiatrist Brailsford mentioned was Dr Steve Peters, who also left British Cycling in April 2014, with their departure in hindsight removing a vital counterbalance to Sutton’s often abrasive approach.

Brailsford added: “When you’re in a leadership position like that you have a responsibility to athletes and the care of athletes, more than anything else, and the welfare of those athletes.

“And of course you’re going to push hard in those environments, but I’ll always be open to learn anything I can.”

Due to report back after the Rio Olympic Games this summer, the independent review is being led by British Rowing chair Annamarie Phelps. Its terms of reference were revealed last Friday.

> Phelps to chair British Cycling review as more riders speak for and against Sutton

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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