Shane Sutton confident of clearing his name

Culture at British Cycling one of excellence, not fear, says resigned technical director

Shane Sutton has told Cyclingnews that he is confident of clearing his name after meeting with the independent panel charged with examining the culture within British Cycling.

Sutton was suspended and then resigned in the spring in the face of allegations against him and British Cycling from several athletes, who accused both the Australian and the federation of running a culture of fear that included sexism and discrimination. The allegations surfaced when Jess Varnish directly accused Sutton of making sexist remarks. However, several other riders came forward in the aftermath with some backing Varnish's claims and others defending Sutton.

Sutton, who was cheering Great Britain on to Olympic success from his home in the UK on Thursday night, has always denied any wrongdoing. He met with the independent panel on August 3 for several hours and they questioned him over the allegations and the culture within British Cycling.

"I've met with the panel and I'm hoping to reach a conclusion as soon as possible," Sutton told Cyclingnews the morning after the men's team sprint trio had secured gold in Rio.

"I really embraced the opportunity to talk to them about the culture. That's what they were talking about, the culture in BC. I think it's proved, that since the days of Peter Keen and Dave Brailsford, it's been one of excellence."

After watching the sprint team's success Sutton pointed to the example of how the culture within British Cycling delivered medals but he admitted that it was not always 'a bed of roses' under his tenure.

"You're dealing with big personalities so it's not always going to be a bed of roses. It was a fantastic culture and you look at someone like Jason Kenny who has been there ten years… if the culture was wrong he wouldn't have lasted that long. He's probably going to go on and be our greatest Olympian. The lad has Tokyo [ed. 2020 Games] in him and who knows what he can achieve, not just at these Games and given the form he has.

"So the culture can't be as bad as everyone has made out and it will be interesting to hear the findings of the panel. I believe, and I've said it all along, it's not one of fear. It's one of excellence and the only people in fear, in the system, are the ones that have failed to deliver."

Varnish, who lost her place within the British Cycling track programme in controversial and public circumstances, was one of the key talking points Sutton was asked to address in front of the panel. She alleged that Sutton told her to "move on and go and have a baby" and made several comments regarding her figure. She also stated that British Cycling had withheld a chance for her to analyse her data with coaches.

"They asked me questions regarding Jess Varnish but the evidence [for me] was overwhelming there," Sutton of his defence.

"We have got emails to produce to show that she had her data and plenty of witnesses to the meeting that took place and as far as I'm concerned that side of it is done and dusted. I'm really not that bothered about the Jess side of it. I've moved on. I don't see any real issues with the allegations going forward. I just want to see the team, like everyone else does, clean up on the track.

"My point to get across was that I brought more females into the system than anybody. The females coming out in support have been fantastic and it's been overwhelming and I'll be rooting for the girls in the TP [team pursuit] one hundred per cent."

Despite resigning, Sutton has also kept in contact with riders and staff at British Cycling.

"I've texted with Bradley [Wiggins] before the start yesterday and I've kept in touch with the coaches. We've had a good liaison over a couple of months. It's been great. To be honest I can't thank the team I built enough. The guys have been so supportive – the whole back room staff. I took Heiko [Salzwedel] back amidst controversy but we've come out and produced the best time. Justin Grace was a controversial signing but he's proved his worth. I moved Paul Manning back to the women because I felt he was more suited there and they broke a world record last night and I moved Iain Dyer into the head coach. But you don't perform the way we have at the last few Olympics if the culture isn't right. It's as simple as that."

The future

Sutton's next meeting will be with the heads of British Cycling on August 16 and from there his future may become clearer.

"Hopefully we can close the allegations off. It should be done and dusted," he said.

If he is cleared then it raises the question of whether he could, or should, be eligible to return.

When asked if he would ever return to British Cycling, he replied: "That's a question you need to ask the powers that be. The first thing I need to do is clear my name. As I said at the time, when I resigned, I totally refute the claims and hopefully I've given my side of the story.

"What's been most fundamental in all of this is that there's never been a complaint. For people to say they wouldn't want to be part of the system, having been in there for eight years, I think they're being hypocrites. Look at the longevity of your stay if it was that bad. Right now I want to just get behind the team, and I'm staying up late to watch them each night."

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