Chris Boardman has suggested that Shane Sutton was the victim of a press lynch mob after the Australian resigned from his position as technical director of British Cycling following allegations of sexism and bullying. The former Olympic champion did however welcome the establishment of an inquiry into those allegations and said that perhaps there had been a loss of ‘balance’ at the top of the organisation following the departures of other major figures, including himself.
Boardman previously worked as head of research and development at British Cycling, working closely with Sutton. He told The Times:
“Whether we got on or not — and we didn’t always get on — I thought it was a horrible trial by press for a week with just one side of the story. Shane’s behaviour was always passionate and right on the edge, Australian. It’s a really sad way to end a career of 20 years.
“It was a bit of lynch mob. Sexism, bullying, selection . . . it was throwing mud at British Cycling and seeing what sticks. And one individual held responsible for everything.”
Boardman’s time working alongside Sutton also coincided with the presence of Dave Brailsford and psychologist Steve Peters. After 2014, only Sutton remained of those four.
“There was a balancing force with four very different people,” said Boardman. “There would be squabbles and fights but those four perspectives balanced. I think the balance went. Shane was called ‘technical director’. What’s that? I don’t think it was ever said internally, ‘Shane, you are in charge’. Fundamentally, he’s a coach. That was his strength.”
Boardman said that the inquiry being led by Annamarie Phelps, the chairwoman of British Rowing, offered a chance to rebuild and he also put forward the name of Sara Symington as a possible new performance director. Symington rode for Britain in Sydney and Athens and is currently performance director for England Netball, having also fulfilled a similar role for Britain’s archery team.