British cyclists operated within a corrosive culture of fear where inappropriate behavior was tolerated by a leadership focused on maintaining the country’s Olympic dominance, a panel reported Wednesday.
The drive for medals meant behavioural issues were not addressed as British Cycling lost sight of basic duties of care to staff, said the Cycling Independent Review (CIR), which also criticised the former technical director, Australian Shane Sutton, and UK Sport, the government’s funding organisation.
“Many WCP staff members referred to a ‘culture of fear’ in terms of retribution or losing employment,” it said.
“The panel found that there were failings in British Cycling’s governance and leadership, monitoring and supervision of the WCP (World Class Programme), training and development, and management and communications with staff and athletes,” it added.
The CIR also “drew attention” to the Commissioning Board “unsubstantiated evidence” made by some contributors of alleged financial irregularities and historic doping. The CIR said it had not investigated these allegations.
The five-person panel recommended a root-and-branch review of governance, calling for “autocratic” leadership to change, staff to be better trained in equality and discrimination and that future funding be made conditional on implementation of its recommendations. It also called for better monitoring of the WCP by UK Sport.
The review was jointly commissioned by British Cycling and UK Sport last April after former British Olympian Jess Varnish made allegations of bullying and sexism against Sutton after she was dropped from the team.
Other riders also made allegations against Sutton, which he denied. He was suspended but immediately quit. An internal inquiry by the British Cycling Board upheld an allegation that Sutton referred to female riders in insulting terms.