How British Cycling’s nightmare week unfolded

Allegations of sexism, discrimination, selling kit for profit and a rider failing a drugs test - it's been a testing week for British Cycling

It has been a week to forget for British Cycling. Allegations of sexism, discrimination against disabled athletes, accusations of selling kit for profit and a top rider failing a drugs test.

We’ve barely had time to catch our breath when another accusation is revealed, with British Cycling’s crisis management team working overtime in an attempt to maintain an air of respectability.

Here’s a recap of the events of the last seven days that have brought the governing body to its knees.

Saturday, April 23

Sutton accused of sexism

An interview given by Jess Varnish to the Daily Mail, published late on Friday evening, saw the then technical director of British Cycling, Shane Sutton, facing allegations of sexism.

Varnish, who was dropped from the British Cycling Olympic programme just days before, claimed that Sutton told her she was too old and to “go and have a baby”.

The 25-year-old, who British Cycling says was not offered a new contract because of her declining performances, also claimed that she was once told that her backside was too big.

BC said in a statement: “At no point in the performance review or the appeal process did Jess raise concerns about sexism, or any other form of discriminatory behaviour, in the Great Britain Cycling Team.

“However, we are fully committed to the principles and active promotion of equality of opportunity. As such, we treat any such allegations with the utmost seriousness and we will be contacting Jess to offer to discuss her concerns in full.”


Tuesday, April 26

Cooke and Pendleton speak out

Former Olympic gold medallists Nicole Cooke and Victoria Pendleton came out in support of Varnish in her claims of sexism.

Cooke, writing in the Guardian, said that sexism was prevalent in cycling as a whole, as well as within British Cycling. For example, she pointed out, women’s races on the track are not as long as the men’s.

She also said that some male riders were given new kit, bikes and equipment while even the elite women were left to ride with older equipment.

Pendleton, in an interview with the Telegraph, claimed she used to keep quiet in meetings because her opinions were not as well respected as those of the male riders, even when she was a world and Olympic medallist.

BC said in a statement: “Riders in the Great Britain Cycling Team heading to Rio 2016 will receive all the support they need to be as good as they can be. A gold medal is valued by us, no matter who wins it and we are equally proud of all our Olympic and world champions.”

Varnish also released a statement saying that she stood by her claims against Sutton and insisted that she still wants to compete for Team GB.

Sutton suspended over para-cyclist allegations

Following accusations of discrimination against para-cyclists, Sutton was suspended by British Cycling pending an internal investigation.

In an interview with the Mail, Paralympic gold medallist Darren Kenny alleged that Sutton referred to para-cyclists as “gimps” and “wobblies”.

Wednesday, April 27

Sutton denies allegations, again

Sutton spoke to the Times after his suspension, saying he was “upset” by the allegations levelled at him,

He denied that he told Varnish to “go and have a baby” or that she had a “fat arse”.

“I have never used the terminology, ‘You’ve got a fat arse.’ I’m just really upset she would say that,” Sutton said.

Sutton resigns

Despite denying the allegations, Sutton resigned his post as technical director to be replaced by programmes director Andy Harrison.

“It is absolutely crucial that, as our athletes begin their final preparations for Rio, they are able to do so free of distraction,” Sutton said in a statement.

“The developments over the past few days have clearly become a distraction. It is for this reason, and having spoken to friends and family, that I believe it is in the best interests of British Cycling for me to step down from my position as technical director.”

Shane Sutton speaks to the media

Shane Sutton speaks to the media

Thursday, April 28

Allegations of selling kit for profit

With the fallout from Sutton’s resignation still ongoing, British Cycling were hit with fresh claims that equipment provided by UK Sport was being sold online for profit.

The Daily Mail claimed that items ranging from skinsuits to £10,000 bikes were being sold on the internet and UK Sport had asked British Cycling to investigate.

BC said in a statememt: “British Cycling keeps a detailed and exhaustive inventory of all UK Sport-funded equipment – going back over 10 years – and can categorically state that no kit or equipment provided by UK Sport is, or has ever been, given away or sold on for profit, or has even left the National Cycling Centre, in Manchester.”

BC did acknowledge that unworn and non-current equipment provided by commercial partners was sometimes sold at ‘cycle jumbles’ and the governing body was unable to guarantee what the buyers then did with it.

Emma Pooley

Emma Pooley called for Sir Dave Brailsford’s role to be questioned as well, claiming that when there were plans to set up a men’s team to win the Tour de France, there was never a similar plan to support a women’s team.

“I think the issue is much bigger than [Sutton],” she told the Guardian. “If you’re going to ask questions of Shane Sutton you have to ask them of Dave Brailsford too.

“I wish more questions had been asked of him before he was awarded his knighthood and moved to [Team] Sky. It was when he was running British Cycling that there was no women’s Team Sky.”

British rider fails drugs test

Then, late on Thursday night, came the hammer blow of a British cyclist failing a drugs test – another story broken by the Daily Mail.

After initially not publishing his name, the Mail soon alleged that it was Orica-GreenEdge rider Simon Yates who had failed a test at Paris-Nice in March.

His team acknowledged that Yates had tested positive for Terbutaline – an asthma medication – and cited an administrative error in that the doctor had not applied for a TUE.

Simon Yates on stage five of the 2015 Tour de France

Simon Yates on stage five of the 2015 Tour de France

Friday, April 29

Orica-GreenEdge owner Gerry Ryan claims that someone within British Cycling leaked the story about Yates failing a drugs test.

“Three days ago, someone within British Cycling told an Australian friend of mine, that there’s a rider who tested positive,” Ryan told CyclingTips. “I’m disappointed that Simon hasn’t had the opportunity to put his case forward. I’m disappointed at British Cycling to leak that Simon has tested positive before the case has been heard and there hasn’t been a B-sample [test].