British Cycling director resigns amid sexism and bullying allegations
Shane Sutton has resigned in the wake of mounting claims of discrimination, sexism and bullying, leaving British Cycling’s Olympic preparations in disarray with 100 days until the Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Sutton, who joined British Cycling in 2002 and played a huge role in Team GB’s stunning medal hauls at Beijing 2008 and London 2012 before taking over from Sir Dave Brailsford in 2014 as the de facto chief, fell on his sword on Wednesday afternoon following fresh claims overnight on Tuesday that he had referred to para-cyclists as “wobblies” and “gimps”.
Those claims came off the back of a sexism and bullying row which erupted after Telegraph Sport revealed that Jess Varnish had been axed from the programme, the sprinter later alleging that Sutton had told her to “move on and have a baby”.
Former Olympic champions Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke both voiced their support for Varnish, claiming that a sexist culture existed at the top of cycling’s governing body, claims that prompted UK Sport to demand an independent review.
British Cycling announced the formation of that review on Tuesday night, and later confirmed that Sutton had been suspended pending an internal investigation.
The Australian denied all the allegations made against him, but on Wednesday decided the best course of action would be to resign.
“Today starts the 100-day countdown to the Olympic and Paralympic Games," he said in a statement.
"It is absolutely crucial that, as our athletes begin their final preparations for Rio, they are able to do so free of distraction.
“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.
“It is important that the review announced by British Cycling and UK Sport now takes place, and I will obviously co-operate fully with this. I have made clear that I reject the specific claims that have been made against me in recent days, and I look forward to taking a full part in the review process so I can respond to the allegations in detail.
“Cycling is my passion and I have always worked to get the very best out of professional athletes. I am proud of what British Cycling has achieved and I am excited by the potential of the team for Rio. They will always have my full support."
British Cycling's chief executive Ian Drake said Andy Harrison, the federation's programmes director, would tkae over with immediate effect and "manage the team in the build-up to Rio 2016".
"I want to put on record my thanks to Shane for his work with British Cycling and the part he played in our success," Drake said. "We have a lot to be proud of and, with the Olympics and Paralympics this summer, a lot to look forward to."