Pooley on Brailsford: A fish rots from the head

Former world champion says some in British Cycling were fearful to speak out

Emma Pooley has called the leaked UKAD report into British Cycling 'shocking' and heavily criticised Dave Brailsford for overseeing a 'culture of fear' while at the helm of body's World Class Programme.

The report, which was leaked last week, gave a damning assessment of the culture within British Cycling and questioned whether the current composition was capable of running a governing body. However, Pooley said that it would not be fair to make a sweeping generalisation about all British Cycling staff.

"A fish rots from the head," Pooley told The Times. "The report is pretty shocking. But when people criticise, they need to think back to who is providing the leadership and not tar everyone with the same brush. Rather than blaming everyone, people need to look at who was setting that culture. It doesn't mean that everyone in British Cycling is flawed like that."

Pooley, who has won a world title and an Olympic medal in the colours of Great Britain, went on to say that some members of the organisation were not happy with how British Cycling conducted itself but fear prevented them from talking out.

"I'm sure some of them would have liked to have done things differently but were fearful of doing so," said Pooley

Pooley has often tried to hold British Cycling to account for what was deemed to be a lack of equality. She is not the only rider to have spoken out about the culture within British Cycling: Last year, Jess Varnish made allegations of sexism against the then-technical director Shane Sutton, who was suspended and later resigned. Former riders Nicole Cooke and Victoria Pendleton backed up her claims.

At a recent hearing at the UK Parliament, Cooke said "British Cycling has got used to not being accountable to anyone. They've got used to doing what they want."

When asked by the Times if she would characterise Brailsford as a bully, Pooley would not answer but did say, "Dave did not lead alone. I've had my criticisms [of British Cycling] for years but, back then, when the media thought Dave Brailsford was the best sports coach in the world, everyone thought I was mad.

"I can say with certainty that not everyone who works there is sexist or a bully or runs a culture of fear — absolutely not. But there were differences in how different riders were treated.

"It's hard when you're in the system to know if you're being treated differently because you're a woman or for other reasons. I think some of the men had a hard time as well. Competitive sport is a difficult ship to run. There were definitely differences in treatment because of gender but that's common across cycling."

Speaking to various media outlets over the weekend, Varnish stated her belief that the board of British Cycling should resign after it emerged that the report into sexism conducted by the body had been sanitised. The Guardian reported on Saturday that UK Sport, who provides funding to British Cycling, had called the position of Chairman Jonathan Browning untenable following the UKAD report. Browning was a member of the Board before being appointed Chairman.

Team Sky is also under scrutiny at the moment regarding their medical practices and the delivery of a medical package to the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine. On Monday, Team Sky leader Chris Froome backed Brailsford saying that he was an integral part of the team.

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