British Cycling warns riders about speaking out on scandals in leaked email

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

(Image credit: Andy Jones 2014)

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.”

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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.