The independent review into British Cycling ordered in the wake of allegations of bullying and discrimination has reportedly returned a ‘damning’ verdict on the governing body, which is said to have appointed a firm specialising in crisis management to handle the fallout.
The findings of the probe, ordered by UK Sport last April after former technical director Shane Sutton’s resignation, will not be made public until next month.
However, British Cycling received a copy last week, with CEO Ian Drake, who had been due to leave the organisation in April, departing with immediate effect, the official reason given that he had completed handover of his duties.
The Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton, citing insiders at the organisation, says that it is believed that the contents of the report of the panel chaired by British Rowing president Anne-Marie Phelps, could be ‘hugely damaging’ to British Cycling.
In recent months Lawton, the Mail’s chief sports reporter, has broken some of the biggest stories in cycling including the missed anti-doping controls that almost led to a ban for then world champion Lizzie Armitstead, and the package containing medicine for Sir Bradley Wiggins that was delivered to Team Sky at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphiné.
The same newspaper also first published the claims sexism against Sutton by track sprinter Jess Varnish, as well as allegations by multiple Paralympic champion Darren Kenny that the Australian referred to paracyclists as “gimps” and “wobblies.”
Now, it says that British Cycling has appointed reputation management expert Paddy Harverson to deal with the expected fallout from the independent review’s report, which the Mail says may lead to other senior figures within the organisation having to consider their positions.
Formerly the PR chief to Prince Charles – he is credited with repositioning the public image of the Duchess of Cornwall ahead of their wedding – and director of communications at Manchester United Football Club, Harverson is the co-founder of London-based Milltown Partners.
The firm, which previously worked with British Cycling when the allegations against Sutton were first made last year, describes itself as “a global advisory firm working with companies and individuals to solve their most complex communications, public policy and reputation challenges.”
The independent review had been due to report in October, but has been delayed in part by developments such as the use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) by riders including Sir Bradley Wiggins, and that Dauphiné package delivered to the UCI WorldTour outfit by then British Cycling employee Simon Cope.
Testifying before the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport last month as part of its investigation into doping in sport, Brailsford claimed that the package contained Fluimucil, a decongestant that is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list.
But questions have been raised over why it would be necessary for a British Cycling staff member – at the time, Cope was manager of the women’s elite road team – would have to make a day trip from the UK to the French Alps via Geneva, Switzerland to deliver it at a cost of several hundred pounds.
Former world and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke, a member of the national team at the time, did not hold back in her criticism of both British Cycling and Team Sky when she appeared by videolink before the same select committee earlier this week.
Cooke, who retired four years ago this month, said that British Cycling was “run by men for men,” and claimed that in her experience, use of TUEs in professional cycling was used to try and mask an organised doping programme.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.