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Athletes must come first, says head of UK Sport about independent review into British Cycling

Governing body briefs riders and staff ahead of publication of "explosive" report next month...

The chief executive of UK Sport says there is “no excuse for not putting athletes first” ahead of the publication next month of what is expected to be a hard-hitting report into allegations of bullying and sexism at the organsiation.

The report follows the independent review into the governing body ordered by UK Sport last year following claims of bullying and discrimination that were made by individuals including track sprinter Jess Varnish and former Paralympic champion Darren Kenny.

It was commissioned in the wake of the resignation of former Great Britain Cycling Team technical director Shane Sutton, and British Cycling has already been made aware of the findings of the report, which have been described as “explosive.” The panel conducting the independent review is chaired by the head of British Rowing, Annamarie Phelps.

The governing body has told athletes and staff that it will brief them on the contents on 1 March, as well as on the action it intends to take, ahead of UK Sport making the report public later in the month.

Since Varnish first accused Sutton of sexist behaviour and bullying last year, a number of other past and present athletes and staff have come forward either to support the claims she and others have made, or to say that they had never experienced such treatment at British Cycling.

More than 80 people gave evidence to the independent review, and Nicholl told BBC Sport: "All those views are being taken into account through the review.

"It's fair to say that the high-performance system here is pretty male-dominated. There aren't very many female coaches and there's an opportunity to address that in future, and to get a better balance to support athletes in a way that athletes of today want to be supported.

"Athletes have moved on and maybe the programmes haven't moved on as fast as they should have done, but what we see is an opportunity."

According to the BBC, the report is now going through an editing process that includes checking with people who testified about how much of their evidence can be made public.

It will also give people criticised in the report a right of reply, and it is understood the report will be redacted to protect individual identities.

Nicholl said: "There's no excuse for not addressing duty of care responsibilities to athletes. There's no excuse for not putting athletes first.

"They are the ones who'll deliver the medals and every programme should be trying to ensure they have happy and successful athletes and there probably hasn't been enough attention in sport about how they do things.

"There's a lot of focus on operational delivery, probably not enough on leadership management and communication," she added.

The report will be published at a time when British Cycling remains without a chief executive following the departure last month of Ian Drake.

> British Cycling CEO Ian Drake leaves post "with immediate effect" as investigations into organisation continue

UK Sport, which among other things allocates Lottery and other funding to individual sporting governing bodies, has already cut the amount of money British Cycling will receive in the current Olympic cycle to Tokyo 2020.

In December, UK Sport chair Rod Carr warned that the remaining £26 million funding would be reviewed if the report established shortcomings in the governance of British Cycling that required UK Sport to take further action.

> British Cycling funding could be withdrawn due to governance issues

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) is also investigating British Cycling and Team Sky to ascertain whether there had been any “wrongdoing” over the issue of Therapeutic Use Exemptions and the Jiffy Bag delivered to the UCI WorldTour team’s doctor at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphiné which contained medicine for use by Sir Bradley Wiggins.

The anti-doping agency’s chief executive, Nicole Sapstead, had been due to appear before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee tomorrow as part of its investigation into doping in sport.

Invitations were also extended by MPs to former Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman to appear at the hearing, and to ex-British Cycling employee Simon Cope, who travelled from the UK to France via Geneva to deliver the package to him at the Dauphiné.

That evidence session has now been postponed while UKAD completes its investigation, and will reportedly now take place next week.

> Former Team Sky doctor and Sir Bradley Wiggins Jiffy Bag courier summoned to testify before MPs

NB - This article was amended on 22 February 2017 to reflect that quotes originally attributed in the source article to Phelps have subsequently been correctly attributed by BBC Sport to Nicholl.

Simon joined 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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