UK Sport failed to investigate anonymous information about the behaviour of Shane Sutton provided to it in 2016. Arguing that it is not a regulator, the body instead forwarded the allegations to British Cycling’s then CEO, Ian Drake, who showed the email to Sutton.
The Guardian reports that detailed claims about Sutton were sent to UK Sport in February 2016 when the Australian was in charge of British Cycling’s world‑class programme.
However, UK Sport, the government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport, told the anonymous sender to instead direct their concerns to British Cycling.
“Hi guys, if Shane Sutton is still employed by British Cycling can you liaise with the sport on this one,” wrote a UK Sport legal adviser in an internal email. “I’ll send the UKS standard response – ie ‘queries like this should be addressed to the sport in the first instance, UK Sport is not a regulator …’”
In a statement yesterday, UK Sport said: “On Friday 26 February 2016 we received an anonymous email which listed a number of complaints directed at the conduct of an employee at British Cycling.
“As the matter related to an employee of British Cycling, over whom UK Sport has no jurisdiction, and as it was received from an anonymous source, the matter was brought to the attention of British Cycling’s CEO to take appropriate action.”
Sutton resigned from his position as technical director at the Great Britain Cycling Team in April 2016 following allegations of bullying and discrimination. Later that year British Cycling cleared him on eight of nine charges of misconduct.
Although the case stemmed from allegations made by Jess Varnish, it also featured separate evidence from an anonymous whistleblower.
Former British Cycling physiotherapist Phil Burt said last year that Sutton had accused both himself and Dr Richard Freeman of being the person responsible.
Detailing some of the allegations as part of his fitness-to-practice medical tribunal in October, Freeman said: “A whistleblower had written to UK Sport describing Shane Sutton’s behaviour, mainly about misappropriation of resources.
“These abuses were common knowledge to the staff … but we all felt powerless to stop it. Many staff in favour would receive sponsors’ road bikes for personal use, as did relatives and business associates of Shane Sutton.”
Asked whether it was an error to not investigate the anonymous allegations it received, UK Sport said: “UK Sport takes very seriously any complaint it receives about the behaviour of staff employed within the World Class System. It is, however, important to be clear that … we do not have regulatory or investigatory powers regarding internal sporting disputes or the affairs of sports governing bodies.”
The body said that it now had an integrity unit to monitor whistleblower complaints, although these would still go to the CEO of the sport in question.
A British Cycling spokesman said: “The independent cycling review was published in June 2017 with British Cycling immediately implementing a 39-point plan to address its findings and recommendations. As part of this process we have substantially strengthened our whistle-blowing process.”
Separately, Sutton was last month said to have been “absolutely lying” when he told parliament he had no knowledge of doping.
Appearing at Dr Richard Freeman’s medical tribunal, Czech rider Kvetoslav Palov also said there had been rumours that Sutton had been given £10,000-worth of performance-enhancing drugs during the 1987 season when the two men were riding for the ANC-Halfords team.