Team Sky’s Rod Ellingworth has welcomed the news of an inquiry into claims of discrimination at British Cycling but stated that Shane Sutton, who resigned from his role as performance director in the wake of growing criticism, has been ‘world class’ as a coach. Ellingworth, currently conducting affairs for Team Sky at the Tour de Yorkshire, also added his surprise regarding the news of Simon Yates returning a positive test for Terbutaline.
Sutton stepped down earlier this week after a string of allegations from current and former riders within British Cycling. UK Sport has also been dragged into the matter after separate allegations were made of the sale of kit and bikes on online auctions. The independent review will look at the allegations of sexism and a ‘culture of fear’ that ran through British Cycling.
“It would be wrong of me to talk about issues around equality because there’s an on going investigation,” Ellingworth told Cyclingnews.
"You have allegations so it’s right that they’ve said 'stop and let's have the inquiry'. Shane has made his decision to resign and I think that he’s done that for the best of the riders. Shane has always been about the riders and that’s why he fitted in with the system. His decision here to step down has shown that because he doesn’t want to drag anything down. There’s a hell of a lot of good stuff that’s gone on in British Cycling over the years and while all this is going off he’s walked off so he doesn’t hurt the riders before the Olympics.”
Several riders have come forth the allegations but there have been others – Chris Hoy and Geraint Thomas the most prominent – who have spoken up for Sutton in terms of the Australian’s achievements and record at British Cycling.
“I’ve known Shane a long time and I’ve really got to know him. When you do that [ed. get to know someone] it’s not always great times. So Shane and I have had our ups and downs but only ever for the good. We’ve had disagreements over riders, selections, and how we would run things but as a coach, someone track side or someone in the team car, that guy is world class. In that sense he’s going to be greatly missed.
“I’ve put it in my book, I got a lot things from Shane and I really respect how he did stuff.”
Ellingworth has spent the last number of years primarily focusing his attention on Team Sky. His relationship, though, goes back to the 1990s when he was a young rider racing in GB colours and Shane was then a retired athlete starting out as a coach.
“Everyone has their own opinion and their own story,” Ellingworth acknowledged, when asked the criticism from high-profile female riders Emma Pooley, Jessica Varnish and Victoria Pendleton.
“I don’t know because I wasn’t there or worked with any of the women’s teams. I wasn’t part of their conversations so I wouldn’t be talking with any real evidence. But from my experience he’s a hard guy. He doesn’t take shit and this is elite sport and people have to make hard decisions. Sometimes in decision making you make the right call, sometimes it’s the wrong but my relationship as a coach with Shane was fantastic. I don’t know anyone who motivated me more, not just when I raced my bike but also as a coach. I think it’s a real shame but everyone can have their opinion and say what they want.”
Ellingworth was also asked his opinion on the situation involving Simon Yates. The Orica Greenedge rider tested positive at Paris-Nice for Terbutaline and his team have laid the blame at the feet of an administrative error made by a team doctor who failed to apply for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE).
Yates had been on the long list for a spot on the men’s Olympic road team and Ellingworth plays a key role in the selection process.
“Until more comes out on it only then can we take our position at British Cycling. It sounds like, it’s a mistake from the team, that’s what they’re saying and I’m sure that they’re in discussions on their process,” Ellingworth told Cyclingnews.
“For cycling, anything like this is a massive surprise and timing isn’t great with all the stuff that’s going on at British Cycling. Simon is one of those guys that’s come through the track programme and been a world champion. He was performing at world level from the very start as a kid.
"All I know about him and his brother is that they’re proper little bike riders. They love riding their bikes and that’s all I know of them in that sense. I know the culture within British Cycling and know the background work that they’ve done so this is a surprise.”