Former British Cycling coach claims there was a 'macho and brutal' culture under Brailsford

Ken Matheson claims British Cycling is paying the cost of an 'almost total lack of governance'

Former British Cycling national coach Ken Matheson has told a UK Sport investigation there was "macho and brutal" culture at British Cycling under Dave Brailsford's management, claiming he was "bullied and harassed" and as a consequence even contemplated suicide.

According to the Daily Mail, Matheson is one of at least seven individuals – including world and Olympic champion cyclists and British Cycling coaches – to have cited Brailsford when giving evidence to the UK Sport investigation.

Matheson is a long-standing and highly respected coach. He played a key role in Charly Wegelius' professional career and has helped many British riders over the years.

He confirmed the contents of the statement and the Times report to Cyclingnews.

In a personal blog post, Matheson has also called for complete separation between British Cycling and Team Sky, saying, "There is a real danger that the genuine success of members of the GB Cycling Team will be tainted by the current and forthcoming findings about Team Sky, and its already discredited General Manager, Dave Brailsford."

Brailsford's methods of ensuring success at British Cycling have come under scrutiny since the departure of his right-hand man Shane Sutton following a sexism and bullying scandal. He was also caught up in the case of the mysterious package sent to Team Sky in 2011 after giving confusing information concerning the reasons why former women's coach and now Team Wiggins manager Simon Cope couriered the medical package to Team Sky in France.

On Wednesday the Daily Mail accused Brailsford of offering alternative stories to journalist Matt Lawton in order to 'kill' the mysterious package story.

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) is currently carrying out an investigation to see if there was any wrongdoing.

According to the Daily Mail, UKAD visited British Cycling's headquarters in Manchester again on Thursday in an attempt to find evidence that the mysterious package contained Fluimucil, as Brailsford told the British parliamentary hearing of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Monday. However British Cycling said it was unable to confirm the visit. 

Reacting to the claims that Brailsford tried to kill the Daily Mail story, Team Sky said in a statement it was confident that when the report is published it will be clear that there has been no wrongdoing.

British Cycling issued a brief statement to Cyclingnews saying "It would be inappropriate to comment on any individual submission. We will respond in full when the review is published."

"A character assassination rather than a drugs bust"

Matheson revealed on Twitter that he had signed a non-disclosure agreement when he left the governing body in 2003 but said he was "talking now and sod the gagging clause!"

He confirmed he wrote the blog on December 21, saying via Twitter: "The thoughts have been in mind for many years." He clarified he had no knowledge of any doping during his time at British Cycling, saying: "My story is a character assassination rather than a drugs bust."

He told The Times: "I have sat on this for so long but I did experience bullying and harassment so I decided to submit that statement to the inquiry."

In his 3500-word statement to the inquiry, which the Times newspaper claims to have seen, Matheson explained that "Under [Brailsford] the organisation quickly became a hierarchy with him at the top as (in his own words) a dictator.

"The atmosphere changed from being open, with the freedom to speak one's mind, to being closed, fearful of one's position and being careful about what was said to whom.

"The culture became more 'macho', brutal and divisive and this management style was established from the top.'

Matheson revealed he was forced to leave British Cycling after suffering a breakdown, but hopes that his decision to come forward (despite signing a gagging order) will help to change the organisation's culture.

"It has taken me many years to regain my self-esteem and, when reminded, I am still haunted by the events of 14 years ago.

"However, as I have witnessed so much unfairness and, on occasions brutal treatment of both staff and athletes I feel the need to contribute to this review.

"In doing so I hope lessons can be learned for [British Cycling] and also that there will be some closure for me."

The UK Sport inquiry, which was launched following allegations against former technical director Shane Sutton, is expected to be completed in the New Year, with the findings announced possibly as soon as January 20. Brailsford was director of programmes at British Cycling at the time before going on to become the sport's performance director and then team manager at Team Sky.

Matheson's claims come as Team Sky and British Cycling brace themselves for the results of the UKAD investigation and the fall out over the Jiffy package couriered from British Cycling's medical department in Manchester to France to be administered to Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2011.

Brailsford revealed to a parliamentary committee that he had been told by Dr. Freeman – now a doctor at British Cycling after working for Team Sky – that the package contained a decongestant called Fluimucil but records of the drug and its transportation have still to be confirmed.

Why are British Cycling and Team Sky so inseparably intertwined?

In a single blog post on tumblr, Matheson shared more of his thoughts, asking: Why are British Cycling and Team Sky so inseparably intertwined - e.g. personnel and resources?"

"One is our national governing body and the other is a well-funded professional team. One has a duty to govern our sport and the other is a commercial enterprise that needs to succeed. It's unhealthy to say the least, creates confusion, the potential for malpractice and has done for many years."

He claimed that: "Cycling is now paying the cost of an over-involved sponsor and the almost total lack of governance by the national governing body."

"I believe that there should be an immediate and complete severance of the intimate relationship between British Cycling and Team Sky. Staff should not be permitted to work for both organisations and resources should not be shared. Particular attention should be paid to medical staff and resources, e.g. pharmaceutical products."

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