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Sutton case causes British Cycling strife

Press Association logoPress Association 10/03/2017

The decision by the board of British Cycling board to reverse findings of an investigation into the behaviour of Australian technical director Shane Sutton has been described as shocking and inexcusable.

The Daily Mail, citing a leaked draft copy of an independent review, said an inquiry led by British Cycling's grievance officer Alex Russell found "considerably more" than one of the nine claims against Sutton by former track star Jess Varnish could be proven.

It emerged in December that Sutton had been found guilty of one count of using inappropriate language but that insufficient evidence could be found to support eight other charges. The ruling upset Sutton, who had denied bullying athletes, and Varnish.

Varnish's hopes of qualifying for the Rio Olympics in the team sprint ended last March at the track world championships in London.

Her funding was not renewed a month later and Varnish reacted by claiming Sutton told her to "go and have a baby", among other sexist remarks, which led to further allegations of bullying and derogatory language made by other riders against the team's most-senior coach.

According to the Daily Mail, the leaked draft review showed British Cycling's board looked to change the results of Russell's investigation in an effort to keep the highly successful Sutton on board.

"The apparently deliberate reversal of the grievance officer's draft outcome by the British Cycling board gives every impression of it trying to achieve that aim," the report says, according to the Mail.

"The actions of the British Cycling board in that regard are shocking and inexcusable. They also call into serious question whether the composition of the British Cycling board is fit to govern a national sporting body."

Sutton had resigned in April 2016, and the leaked review reportedly indicates British Cycling had been acting irresponsibly for many years.

In response to the review's findings, British Cycling replied in a statement: "All stakeholders now accept that the world class programme leadership focused on athlete performance and medal delivery without sufficient care and attention to the overall staff and athlete culture and environment.

"British Cycling leadership did not have adequate oversight and control of the world class programme and consequently failed to adequately grasp and subsequently address the early warning signs."

The review was commissioned by British Cycling and the government funding agency UK Sport.

British Cycling added it would take on board the points raised in the review.

"Despite the fact the board of British Cycling may disagree with the factual accuracy of certain points or commentary in the draft independent review, it has chosen to embrace the recommendations and findings and to use these to continue to develop its operating practices with clear, timed action," the statement added.

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