Following allegations of bullying and harassment by a member of the Black Cyclists Network, sponsors have taken action to distance themselves from the grassroots organisation while the claims are investigated.
The Black Cyclists Network (BCN) gained recognition in 2020 shortly after the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement, quickly becoming the largest community of Black cyclists in London and one of the largest clubs devoted to Black cyclists and the promotion of people of colour riding bikes.
BCN also expanded in 2020 by launching the first black and ethnic minority race team, a collection of amateur racers from elite to third category.
As the organisation grew, it attracted a number of big-name sponsors, most notably online training platform Zwift, nutrition company Science in Sport (SiS) and clothing sponsor DhB amongst others.
But Cycling Weekly understands the investigations concern the alleged behaviour of BCN founder Mani Arthur towards the junior riders in the amateur team, resulting in a number of sponsors reconsidering their involvement with BCN.
In response to the allegations, a BCN spokesperson said the group had contacted British Cycling to carry out an independent investigation, claiming that the national governing body decided no action would be taken.
However after initially declining to comment, British Cycling then sent Cycling Weekly a statement contradicting BCN's claim, saying an investigation is in fact still ongoing.
While Zwift has paused its involvement with BCN, Science in Sport has terminated its agreement with the team.
A statement from SiS said: “We can confirm that we have terminated the company's relationship with BCN. This decision was not taken lightly. We are strongly supportive of encouraging wide participation in sport, and shared BCN's aims for greater inclusion in cycling. However the deeply troubling state of affairs at the club and breach of trust, obliged us to take this serious step.”
Zwift has released a statement responding to the allegations, with a spokesperson saying: “Zwift does not tolerate bullying, hate speech, harassment, threats, or personal attacks - within the game or anywhere else. We have been made aware of allegations of bullying against members of the Black Cyclists Network. We take all allegations seriously and have taken the decision to pause our activity with BCN while we investigate further.”
Zwift added it does not want to walk away from such commitments to promote diversity in cycling and on its platform, wanting to continue with the positives which have come from the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Zwift spokesperson added: “We first partnered with BCN to promote greater diversity within cycling, and we still remain committed to that cause. It’s important that these events do not come at the cost of the Black Cyclists Network community or disrupt the momentum of such an incredibly positive movement towards equality.”
SiS has also supported a host of other initiatives across the world in the hopes of improving diversity in cycling, including the Flames Cycling Club and the Tour de Lunsar both in Sierra Leone, and opening up jobs opportunities inside the company for people from underrepresented backgrounds.
In a joint statement, kit sponsor DhB and components brand Prime Bike Components, said: “We are in the process of investigating and are taking the matter very seriously”.
A Black Cyclists Network spokesperson said: "When the concerns about bullying were raised to Black Cyclists Network (BCN) senior management, BCN contacted British Cycling to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of bullying.
"British Cycling concluded that no disciplinary measures will be taken and made recommendations which BCN are implementing. BCN has formed a committee and senior members within the club will be undergoing training to better understand how to handle contentious situations with members later this year as a part of ongoing learning and development."
Following the publication of the statement from BCN, British Cycling then released a statement to Cycling Weekly, saying: "British Cycling can confirm there is an ongoing investigation into allegations relating to an individual associated with the Black Cyclists Network.
"It is not our practice to comment on any investigation until it is completed. However, in this case we are compelled to do so in order to correct public statements made by the group."
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Myles Warwood is a cycling journalist, automotive journalist and videographer. He writes for Cycling Weekly, Cyclist and Car magazine.
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