The Dutch cycling federation (KNWU) has announced the launch of an independent investigation into harassment in the sport. The KNWU's action follows this year's inquiry by British Cycling which found that one of its own coaches had engaged in discriminatory behaviour.
In the case of British Cycling, Jess Varnish, who alleged that coach Shane Sutton had told her to 'go and have a baby' after she was denied a place on the Olympic team, raised the issue with the British federation. Her claims were followed by support from riders like Victoria Pendleton, Emma Pooley and Nicole Cooke, who also spoke about sexism within the organisation. In the end, Sutton was suspended and then resigned from his post.
In 2015, the issue of sexual harassment earned a brief mention in the Cycling Independent Reform Commission's report. "The Commission was told that women’s cycling had been poorly supported in past years, and was given examples where riders in the sport had been exploited financially and even allegedly sexually," they wrote.
Jess Varnish and Nicole Cooke are amongst the best-known athletes to raise concerns about coaching methods, but athletes are often afraid of reporting intimidation, abuse, or sexual assault, fearing they will be denied a place in the sport in retribution.
The KNWU has appealed to its athletes to report any intimidation or harassment to the Netherlands Olympic Committee-Netherlands Sports Federation (NOC-NSF) at 0900-2025590. KNWU has told Cycling News that all reports made to it will be treated confidentially and will not be published in its report.