Chris Boardman, a former head of R&D at British Cycling, has welcomed the news of an inquiry into the federation but added that a ‘trial by press’ has been a disappointment.
British Cycling finds itself in turmoil after a week of allegations surrounding a ‘culture of fear’, and several incidents of discrimination. Shane Sutton resigned from his role as Performance Director after several athletes levelled accusations against him but Boardman, who worked in conjunction with Sutton for several years until 2012, stated that the media coverage had led to both negative and positive outcomes.
“I think the press have played their part in bringing a topic to the table. I was involved with Shane and everyone knew that he was a straight talker, no nonsense and that he could read a rider," he told Cyclingnews.
“I’ve been disappointed to see trial by press over the last week, which whatever you think of an individual, I don’t think that’s fair but now you have an inquiry underway so I’d say let it do its job and lets see what happens. It’s an interesting position for British Cycling going forward and I think that’s good for every business to review and take opportunities when they’re brought to you. No matter how they are brought to you.”
Boardman is now detached from the federation and works in commentary and across his bike brand. He has a mixed-gender board within his bike business and says that the approach is healthy for the company. One of the criticism levelled at British Cycling is that the federation lacks a significant female presence at the highest level and Boardman believes that such a factor could well be addressed.
“I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and we both recalled Sara Symington.”
Symington is a former professional cyclist who represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games in 2000 and 2004. She currently works as the Performance Director of England Netball.
“She used to be a bike rider, she was the first British rider to medal at a World Cup. She has been the performance director in archery and is the performance director in women’s basketball. She could come into the mix. I see it as an opportunity.”
Boardman also pointed to the fact that although more could certainly be done to improve women’s cycling both at a federation and international level, the landscape had already seen improvements in recent years. It is Boardman’s hope that the inquiry will help even further.
“As far as women’s cycling goes we’re standing here at the Tour of Yorkshire which is the first time ever that we’ve seen the women race at the same distance as men, with the same TV coverage, ironically and even more prize money. This could be the start of something but we’ll have to see. Who knows, we could see the first ever woman as the Performance Director of British Cycling.”