An email from British Cycling's programmes director, leaked to newspapers, appears to threaten riders about speaking out against the governing body

British Cycling‘s new technical director, Andy Harrison, warned riders that speaking out on the recent scandals to hit the governing body could affect how they are supported in the future in an email leaked to several newspapers.

Harrison, who signed the email with his previous title of programmes director, said that riders were free to accept or decline interviews with the media, but asked them to toe the party line if asked about the scandals.

He pointed out the sexism and discrimination allegations made against Shane Sutton, the investigation ongoing into the sale of Great Britain kit online, and the anti-doping violation of Simon Yates.

“You are free to say yes or no to interviews, but how you respond will be a big factor in our ability to support you as the current season unfolds,” the email, printed by The Times, read.

It continued: “It is highly likely that you will be asked for a comment over the weekend. As stated, your response will be a big factor going forward. If asked about this week’s events, we ask that you reflect the following messaging:

“-‘The specific allegations that have been circulating in the media over the past week are extremely serious and I’m pleased to see that British Cycling and UK Sport are launching a full enquiry.

“- ‘I’m confident that they will get to the bottom of these allegations and that British Cycling will emerge stronger as a result.’”

>>> How British Cycling’s nightmare week unfolded

According to The Times, one rider asked Harrison what was meant by the comments about the team’s ability to support the riders, prompting the coach to send a second email just over an hour later, apologising for his “poorly constructed” wording.

“I want to apologise if the first line of the below email is misleading,” he said in the second email. “The intention of the sentence was to highlight that I want my (and the staff’s) time to be focussed upon supporting you (‘the riders’).

“This week has been difficult. The serious issues raised are important and will be dealt with in the correct manner (as indicated in the original email). My hope is that I can spend less time reacting (as has been the necessity this week) and more time supporting the programme (staff and riders).

“I hope this makes sense. Once again I apologise if this genuine sentiment has been lost in a poorly constructed sentence. As always don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss further.”

>>> What you need to know about the British Cycling discrimination scandal

The emails appeared to come shortly after British Cycling’s torrid week at the end of April. Separate investigations are ongoing into allegations of sexism and discrimination within the governing body, and the sale of Lottery-funded equipment online.

Harrison said in his initial email: “Nobody wants this review to get to the root of this serious issue more than us so we can address any shortcomings and continue to build on the massive success we have achieved in recent years.”

Responding to the story about Harrison’s emails to the riders, a British Cycling spokesperson told the Telegraph: “Andy immediately apologised and issued a quick clarification as riders have been told throughout recent weeks that they are free to speak of their own experiences to the media.”

  • Neville York

    Lancaster is far from independent – he has worked with Brailsford and is friendly with him. He should stand down before this whole debacle becomes a show trial. UK Sport need to look very carefully at those appointed and their links to Brailsford/Sutton.

  • Neville York

    Who on earth is Andy Harrison anyway. What are his qualifications to be Performance Director? Has he ever coached? Does he have a Level 4 Coaching qualification and has he a degree in Sports Science? Has he got any University degree? I suspect he has few diplomatic skill judging by the way he is handling matters in the present crisis which I suspect has been in the making for a lot of years – whatever happened to the man who laid all he ground work and was seemingly very successful – Peter Keen. What role did and still possibly does David Brailsford have in this debacle – Sutton it seems, from what I read , was just a henchman after all he was and possibly still is employed by Team Sky. Can anyone enlighten me

  • Dave2020

    “You cannot blame the coaches for every negative thing and then in the next breath say that “the riders won the medals” as though they did it entirely by themselves.” Read what I wrote:-

    “IF the riders understood the fundamentals” – they WOULD be able to do it by themselves. It is simply a matter of learning how to train properly. “Minimise pain if you wish to maximise gain. In other words, be nice to yourself.” BC coaches are old school – “No pain, no gain.” – and resort to coercion. e.g. “If you don’t put on weight you’re not going anywhere.” Iain Dyer to Varnish. Then a few years later they say her bum’s too big! You couldn’t make it up.

    What don’t you understand about; “Since Pendleton’s retirement, Great Britain has struggled.”? “Without Becky James, who is recovering from a knee injury, Britain look relatively weak in the women’s sprint disciplines which Victoria Pendleton once dominated.” The pain of injury tends to slow you down somewhat. Becky set a Junior world record and didn’t improve on that 200m time for years. Why? Too much weight-lifting, in the mistaken belief that you have to push a big gear. A fantastic athlete, ruined by BC.

    Vicky retired early, physically and emotionally battered. Chris Hoy likewise couldn’t even raise the enthusiasm to try and race in his home Commonwealth Games. These amazing athletes achieved what they did, in spite of the sports pseudo-science.

    Vicky, Jess and Becky, to name BUT 3, have had their careers jeopardised by BC’s brute-force-and-ignorance regime, which by their OWN admission leaves them short on leg speed; i.e. poorly co-ordinated (and worn out!), as happened in Cali. You couldn’t make it up, and I’m not.

  • Bob

    didn’t we hear similar sentiment from Dave Camoron to his MP’s about the EU vote – feel free to express your own opinion as long as it’s the same as mine 🙂

  • Michael

    Oh please. You cannot blame the coaches for every negative thing and then in the next breath say that “the riders won the medals” as though they did it entirely by themselves.

    Even the riders are more honest here than you are being.

    You’re completely disingenuous. You’re discredited and you’ve turned yourself into a joke. You have no future in any role, for any sport for any country.

    They ignored you in 2009 and rightly so – because you’ve demonstrated since that you are not mentally stable. In 2012 alone they proved they didn’t need you. They’ll keep proving you weren’t needed over and over and over again. You have nothing to offer. You were a nobody when you cycled and you’re a nobody now as a coach. And you’ve demonstrated clearly that you will never improve because you’re delusional. You cannot learn until you stop talking and listen and wake up to the fact that you are wrong. Your ideas wouldn’t work.

    It’s time for you to seek some help because you’ve clearly allowed the rejection to reach obsessive levels now and your delusions are getting worse and worse.

  • Dave2020

    When you’re in a hole of your own making, stop digging. The riders won the medals and if only the riders understood the fundamentals the coaches would all be redundant. (so, their salaries could be put to better use, if BC can’t afford to pay Varnish a minimum wage.)

    Jamie Staff told me (8/12/09) that BC’s expertise was “world class” – a month before his career-ending back injury became public knowledge. Their YouTube video evidence is so embarrassing it is now ‘private’.

    Moderator a mate of yours is he?

    e.g. A censored comment from a year ago:-

    “Since Pendleton’s retirement, Great Britain has struggled . .” – solely because of the incompetent methods employed by GB’s coaches. Can anyone name an athlete in the squad who hasn’t been sidelined by training injuries? That is unforgivable. Will Reade suffer the same brutal treatment? Why aren’t those responsible relieved of their posts?

  • BLMac

    So being a sycophantic toady is more important than being the best cyclist?

    Welcome to the 2nd rate cycling nation.

  • Michael

    No, the coaches at BC are responsible for creating the most successful British team in any sport at a world and Olympic level.

    All you’ve achieved is writing a lot of posts crying about the fact they did it all without you.

    Boo hoo.

  • Dave2020

    “British Cycling coaches pointed to the loss of James due to injury as a factor in failing to qualify.”

    I lifted 500lbs 50 years ago and never injured myself doing it. None of the riders I coach ever get injured. The “world class” coaches at BC are responsible for numerous training injuries. Ergo I am competent in the job. They are not. End of story.

  • Dave2020

    That has nothing to do with this. Wait to see my pending post, if it ever appears.

  • Chris

    All he says is that he left the BCF years ago.

  • Dave2020

    ‘The Awakening’ knows the truth. That’s why my first comment is where it is.

  • Chris

    I take no correction from a charlatan

  • Dave2020

    I have already explained your error, but it’s pending

  • Chris


  • Dave2020

    Totally untrue.

  • Chris

    There is nothing interesting in somebody wallowing in their own paranoia. No one is deliberately censoring posts, in spite of what some l**nies say.

  • Dave2020

    “Former England rugby union coach Stuart Lancaster has been named on the panel to undertake an independent review into the culture at British Cycling.”

    “The review follows allegations by cyclist Jess Varnish of sexism and discriminatory behaviour by technical director Shane Sutton.”

    Never mind the allegations. What about the victimisation that caused the scandal?

  • Michael

    The fact is, his post used one word that caused it temporarily to not be posted.

    Not a particularly bad word or anything. It’s clearly there, as I said, to stop it being used against other posters.

    I’d say what it was except then my post would be blocked too.

    However, his narcissistic streak managed to construct a false reality where cycling weekly somehow have a dedicated team of moderators conspiring to stop him crying about British cycling ruining his life here.

    As though anyone actually cares what he says or thinks about cycling. He’s probably the least influential person in the country on the subject of cycling.

    If you’re intelligent (or experiment) I’m sure you can look back through his old posts and see the word that caused them to be blocked for a short time.

    But, it had nothing to do with “censorship of stuff about Shane Sutton”

  • Dave2020

    Well, Lizzie Armitstead nearly wins every time and when she doesn’t it’s because she worked for a team-mate! The commentary on one video goes – “She’s a pioneer, an innovator, an anomaly.” I bet she keeps trying new things. . .

    After the 2008 Olympics Dave Brailsford said; “We can’t do the same things for the next four years. We’ve got to stimulate coaches to come up with new ideas.” They failed to come up with anything new back then and they never have since. Brailsford didn’t say what could be done differently and team Sky coaches haven’t come up with anything better either – witness Wiggo’s poor 2013 season, after Kerrison put him on squats, for heaven’s sake!

  • kevinmorice

    The description that was given by Boardman on commentary and confirmed (almost word-for-word) by Kenny in his post-race interview was that he was doing a 3-rep set, had a bad day for the first two and for the third one they added a tooth just to see how it felt and suddenly he was ‘much’ faster. I assume that means an extra tooth at the wheel/cassette (so, yes, a lower ratio) rather than at the crankset but no-one specified so I could be wrong. (They may be at a such a small gear on the back that their only option is to add teeth at the drive end to gear up?)

    Cautionary note: Doing the same thing IS sensible if you win every time and no-one else is improving beyond your current level, which for a period was the case with British Cycling, and may have led to a complacent stagnation over time.

  • Dave2020

    That’s interesting Kevin. Was it by any chance accidentally a lower ratio?

    “The last few World Championships haven’t gone that well, but it hasn’t changed our approach. We were disappointed at the time, but we go away, have a break and just do the same thing again.” – Jason Kenny.

    Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results may not be the definition of insanity, but for sure it’s certainly not sensible. If your performance is no good HALF the time, you should seriously question your ‘approach’. The myth that the coaches ‘win’ the medals is always popular with the coaches.

  • Dave2020

    What are you on about? Varnish amassed more points than others on the team. GB were fifth on the UCI ranking for the women’s team sprint. France were ranked ninth.

  • kevinmorice

    But you could make the same case for Jason Kenny over the last three years until he regeared his bike (by accident! which worries me about their supposedly scientific approach) before the last World Cup.

  • mulga bill

    Do you think the evidence might be the fact that she fail to get results

  • Dave2020

    You can repeat your childish “boo hoo hoo” ad infinitum. The fact of the matter is the coaches just lacked the wisdom to heed my advice in 2009. As I said before:-

    “I have never been upset. It’s the abused athletes who have been reduced to tears.”

    My comment on freedom of speech simply reflects that embarrassing facts (about Sutton and Dyer’s useless methods) that were previously censored, no longer are.

  • gr1nch

    “You are free to say yes or no to interviews, but how you respond will be a big factor in our ability to support you as the current season unfolds,” the email, printed by The Times.

    That seems like a very carefully constructed sentence to me and a clear, unambiguous promise (using “will”) that support depends on how the rider answers. If this were true, then the claim it was “poorly constructed” would be a blatant, lie.

    And we know what BC support means at the top level. Lose it, like Jess Varnish, and you are not only denied funding, ie pay and training/racing expenses, but your bikes have to go back, you get banned from Manchester velodrome rider access.

    British Cycling, at the very top, may just be as morally corrupt as FIFA. Different amounts, but same male, closed-shop, self-serving issues.

  • gr1nch

    Doesn’t sound like you should be lecturing on positivity to a fellow commenter who actually said something interesting.

  • Michael

    It’s the weekly meeting of the boo hoo hoo British cycling ruined my life brigade.

  • Michael

    Sheesh what a narcissist you are.

    They simply have certain trigger words that block posts until they are approved.

    This is to avoid them being used towards other posters, but obviously a simple filter cannot garner context, hence why the mod later allows them.

    Perhaps you should try harder to be constructive when you’re crying about British cycling winning in spite of rejecting you.

  • The Sniper

    Am I on the wrong website? This seems to be the Righteous Liberal Discussion Forum.

  • Dave2020

    The problem as I see it is that the inquiry doesn’t even have a remit to investigate the travesty of Varnish’s ‘sacking’. It was claimed to be solely due to her ‘under-performance!’ since 2012, but Sutton and Dyer can’t produce their evidence for that, because the data won’t confirm their story.

    Bob Howden has gone public with the statement – “That (selection) is something based entirely on podium potential.” – which is no more than saying “I trust the integrity of my staff.” He’s on very shaky ground there.

  • The Awakening

    Simon Clarke,

    IMHO, this revelation, now raises the question of the impartiality of any subsequent enquiry.

  • Simon Clarke

    That’s an epic climb down from a bold threat, what a nasty little piece of work. British Cycling shouldn’t have acted in a way that they felt required riders to lie for them in the first place.

  • Dave2020

    They’ve given up on trying to censor comments on Disqus.

    A victory for freedom of speech!

  • llos25

    They have always thought they were above and better than the riders they seem to forget they are the servants .

  • The Awakening

    Derek Biggerstaff,

    I am unable to threaten the withdrawal of my British Cycling membership, as I left the BCF many years ago and haven’t renewed since its name changed!

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    i’ll be e-mailing BC today to tell them I won’t renew my membership unless Andy Harrison is sacked. Disgraceful.