Tennant backs British Cycling's 'medal-or-nothing' culture as report nears

Team pursuiter says sport shouldn't be 'all cuddly and care bears'

Team pursuiter Andy Tennant has publicly backed the 'win-or-nothing' culture at British Cycling as well as former performance director Shane Sutton ahead of a review from UK Sport that is expected to be highly critical of the federation.

In an interview with The Guardian, Tennant disagreed with former British Cycling teammate Wendy Houvenaghel's claim that she was treated "shabbily" by the federation after being removed from the roster for the 2012 London Olympics.

Tennant missed the London 2012 Olympics when he was dropped at the last minute, and then he missed the Rio Games when he was named as an alternate and did not travel with the team.

Nevertheless, Tennant supported British Cycling, its decisions and the support it provided as he struggled with the disappointment.

"Was I fast enough to ride the semi-final [in London]?" Tennant said in his interview with The Guardian. "Yes, but would that have made [the team] go faster? Probably not. You could probably say the same thing about Wendy. I think she could probably have gone into that squad [in London], [they] would still have qualified but it was not necessarily their fastest team … I don't know how you can complain against the selection panel when they put a team in that just broke the world record."

Several former riders have accused British Cycling of sexism, ageism and bullying, dating back to last April when former sprinter Jess Varnish made the initial allegations. UK Sport and British Cycling have commissioned a review from an independent panel whose findings are expected to be released in a report that is due at any time after at least one delay.

Tennant defended the culture at British Cycling, telling The Guardian that riders cut from the Olympic team shouldn't expect support until after the Games are over.

"It's great to be all cuddly and care bears, but in my opinion they shouldn't be spending time on us – I mean me and Wendy on this occasion – when they've got four riders who have got to go and win a medal, that's what they are there for," Tennant said. "I would personally have felt really guilty if I had taken the support staff and the coaches' time up and that had detracted from their performance. Because then I have affected four other people and would have been selfish. After the competition is the time to grieve and speak to people if you need to. I certainly wouldn't have brought that on."

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Tennant recalled a time in 2016 when he leaned on Sutton for support when his Olympic dream appeared to be fading.

"About two or three weeks before [the 2016 worlds] I could see that I had a problem, but he had said that his door was always open," Tennant told The Guardian. "I'd never taken him up on that before, but I could see my Olympics slipping away. We sat down and he talked to me for quite a long time, so in my opinion, when I asked for the support it was there. I'd just gone to the big boss, straight to the top, he was willing to take time, we had about an hour and a half in Starbucks in Wilmslow. I went on to win a silver and a bronze."

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