British Cycling says it 'failed' athletes in medal factory

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 02, 2017 8:44 AM

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Embattled British Cycling says its gold-at-all-costs approach will be softened after accusations of a bullying and sexist culture within a system that has become a medal factory.

Funding body UK Sport opened an independent investigation into the culture within British Cycling last year after former technical director Shane Sutton quit over allegations of sexual discrimination against track cyclist Jess Varnish.

The findings of the investigation, initially expected to be published last month, have been delayed again, but the governing body and UK Sport issued a joint statement outlining an action plan for "better behavior" on Thursday.

New British Cycling chairman Jonathan Browning admitted to "failures" in its World Class Program, which has delivered unprecedented medal success at the last three Olympic Games: eight golds in Beijing, eight in London and six in Rio.

"(The failures) occurred at a time when our sport and indeed the wider UK high-performance system were undergoing rapid transformation in terms of realizing unprecedented medal success on the world stage," Browning said in a statement.

"Our cultures and behaviors must be a focus for the whole organization and we will work with staff, riders and volunteers to develop a set of common values and behaviors by which the whole of British Cycling will live.

"Performance or personal development is not a choice great organizations ask people to make, they help people do both -- that's where British Cycling is headed."

"We deeply regret any instance where we have failed to deliver."

UK Sport said it would publish the findings of the investigation "in as open and transparent way as possible". But it said, following legal advice, the independent panel had been required to take some steps to protect those who gave evidence.

Chief Executive Liz Nicholl said "valuable lessons" had been learned and that riders would start to experience "positive actions" from the findings of the review.

British Cycling will receive 25 million pounds in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics, down from 30 million in the Rio cycle.

As part of its action plan following the independent review, UK Sport said it would "review" funding agreements to ensure more accountability and would implement cultural "health checks" across all funded sports for Tokyo.

Browning, who was appointed chairman as British Cycling battles to retain its credibility amid the controversy surrounding its involvement in the Team Sky "jiffy bag", said a new leadership system was now in place.

British Cycling and Team Sky are embroiled in a UK Anti-Doping investigation into allegations of "wrongdoing" after a mystery medical package was delivered to Bradley Wiggins at a race in France in 2001.

Sutton quit last April after Varnish said he told her to "get on with having a baby" after she was dropped from the elite program. Allegations of bullying were supported by former Olympic champions Nicole Cook and Victoria Pendleton.

British Cycling upheld Varnish's complaint in October although he was cleared of eight other allegations.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Larry King)