British Cycling sexism and discrimination crisis - Timeline

British Cycling’s Shane Sutton before the London Track Worlds

British Cycling’s Shane Sutton before the London Track Worlds

Allegations of sexism first surfaced from Jess Varnish against British Cycling's technical director Shane Sutton in April, and led to a snowballing of further claims of derogatory and discriminative language and behaviour toward women and paralympic athletes at the federation.

Sutton has since resigned from his post and British Cycling has launched an independent review of the matter. Follow the timeline below as the federation aims to inquire into the claims and reform its position.

Jess Varnish makes sexism allegations against Shane Sutton – April 23, 2016

The first set of allegations made against British Cycling’s Shane Sutton came from Jess Varnish in an interview with The Daily Mail. The track sprinter had spoken out against British Cycling after being dropped from the Olympic programme, claiming she was told by technical director Shane Sutton that she was too old and that she should "move on and go and have a baby".

Pendleton and Cooke claim British Cycling is rife with sexism – April 26, 2016

In the days following Varnish’s initial claims of sexism against Sutton, retired riders Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke both made separate claims that there is sexism within British Cycling. British Cycling denied the allegations but stated that they will seek talks with Varnish. Pendleton spoke with The Telegraph while Cooke wrote a piece for The Guardian.

Varnish: I no longer trust British Cycling – April 26, 2016

After speaking out about sexism within British Cycling in an interview with The Daily Mail, Varnish went on to release a full statement on her website standing by her allegations that after being dropped by the federation, technical director Sutton told her she was “too old” and that she should "move on and go and have a baby”, among other derogatory comments made about her figure.

British Cycling announces independent review following sexism allegations – April 26, 2016

Following the claims of sexism at British Cycling made by Varnish, Pendleton and Cooke, British Cycling announced the formation of an independent review to look into recent allegations in its performance programs.

"We are fully committed to the principles and active promotion of equality of opportunity and we must take any such allegations seriously," British Cycling stated. "The terms of the review will be announced in due course and no further comment will be made at this stage."

British Cycling suspends Shane Sutton – April 27, 2016

New allegations surfaced that claimed Sutton made derogatory comments about British Cycling’s Paralympic cyclists, calling them "gimps" and "wobblies". Six-time Paralympic Games gold medallist Darren Kenny made the claims in an interview with The Daily Mail, explaining that he overheard the alleged comments from Sutton.

British Cycling later announced that it had suspended Sutton pending its internal investigation.

Shane Sutton resigns amid sexism and discrimination claims – April 27, 2016

Sutton resigned from his post as the technical director of British Cycling after several allegations of sexism and discrimination were made against him.

In a statement released to the media, Sutton said: "It is important that the review announced by British Cycling and UK Sport now takes place, and I will obviously co-operate fully with this."

Thomas: Sutton always wanted the best for British riders – April 27, 2016

Team Sky's Geraint Thomas released a statement regarding the allegations of sexism and discrimination laid against Sutton. He called out inequality in all sport and backs the independent review into allegations of sexism at British Cycling, but also stated that Sutton has been a crucial figure in his career thus far and isn't solely responsible for inequality across cycling in Britain.

Pooley on British Cycling: Brailsford should face questions – April 28, 2016

Emma Pooley added to the claims of an embedded culture of sexism within British Cycling after technical director Sutton resigned from his role following alleged sexism and discrimination claims.

In an interview with The Guardian, Pooley raised questions over the role of Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford in what efforts were made to establish a women's 'Team Sky' equivalent in 2010.

No crisis at British Cycling says boss Ian Drake – April 28, 2016

British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake has told the BBC the governing body is not in "crisis" following recent allegations of sexism and the resignation of technical director Sutton.

Kennaugh hits back at British Cycling sexism claims - News Shorts – April 28, 2016

Team Sky rider Pete Kennaugh criticized Emma Pooley over her comments about sexism at British Cycling, telling her to “get over it.” The Manxman made two posts on Twitter, which were quickly deleted. However, both had already been often and widely retweeted. He temporarily deleted his Twitter profile and later re-activated it to make public apology over his choice of words.

Howden: I won't step down even if there is sexism within British Cycling – April 29, 2016

In an interview with Cyclingnews, President of British Cycling Bob Howden tried to provide a clearer picture of what is going on inside the federation and the steps involved in an independent review that is expected to investigate claims of sexism and discrimination.

British Cycling and Sutton face further allegations – April 29, 2016

Allegations continued with claims in The Guardian that other three riders in the current British Cycling team said that Sutton called “women ‘bitches’ and ‘sheilas’ and once referred to a non-white rider as a “dirty terrorist” when he turned up to a race with stubble.” The Guardian also suggests complaints regarding Sutton extend to 2007.

British Cycling in crisis – Podcast – May 3, 2016

At the recent Tour de Yorkshire Cyclingnews spoke with Emma Pooley, Chris Boardman, Bob Howden (British Cycling President) and Rod Ellingworth and asked their thoughts on the recent allegations of sexism and discrimination at British Cycling, the independent inquiry and the opportunity for the organization to reform.

Brailsford: British Cycling wasn’t ruled by fear - May 4, 2016

Sir David Brailsford, the former performance director of British Cycling, claimed there was no culture of intimidation, saying "You can't get performance on a continuous basis over a long period of time through fear. I just don't believe it.". He thought the investigation would clear Sutton. "It's really good that this inquiry has been brought in, so we can establish the truth," he said.

British Cycling threatens riders about speaking out in leaked email - May 24, 2016

Technical director Andy Harrison sent an email to athletes that was leaked to the Times, in which he advised them on speaking to the media. "You are free to say yes or no to interviews, but how you respond will be a big factor in our ability to support you as the current season unfolds."

Sutton was the victim of a 'lynch mob', says Boardman - May 31, 2016

Chris Boardman was critical of the treatment of Sutton in the media in an interview with The Times, saying "I thought it was a horrible trial by press for a week with just one side of the story. Shane's behaviour was always passionate and right on the edge, Australian. It's a really sad way to end a career of 20 years."

Shane Sutton confident of clearing his name - August 12, 2016

Sutton met with the independent panel looking into Varnish's allegations and was confident he would be vindicated.

"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," he told Cyclingnews.

Wiggins believes Sutton will be cleared by British Cycling panel - August 15, 2016

After winning gold at the Olympic Games in Rio, Bradley Wiggins said he thought Sutton would be cleared by the panel.

"If I'm completely honest, I think there's a lot of bitter people that didn't make the grade, got the boot and they have now come out picking holes in things. I think for every one of those there's equally successful people – the Becky James and Laura Trotts of this world – that have been successful. Simply put: if my daughter wanted to get into it, I wouldn't have any problem with her going into British Cycling," he told the Guardian.

Former British Cycling president questions all-female panel on sexism - October 7, 2016

Tony Doyle went on BBC Radio to criticize the composition of the panel looking into the allegations against Sutton. "There was an independent review because he was allegedly said to have made sexist remarks. The independent review, Clare, was conducted by three women. You know … so something's not right there," Doyle said.

British Cycling CEO Ian Drake confirms he will step down in April - October 21, 2016

Drake confirmed news that he would step down from his post, saying "the end of this Olympic cycle is the natural moment for a new CEO to take the organisation forward into the Tokyo Games and beyond". But Doyle was critical of Drake and said the sexism claims were partly to blame for Drake's departure.

"It's been crisis after crisis, we've lurched from one problem to another problem. Ian Drake's been the CEO, so ultimately he's responsible. A lot of these things should have been made public and they could have been handled a lot better," Doyle said.

British Cycling upholds allegations of sexism against Shane Sutton - October 28, 2016

British Cycling announced that its internal investigation had concluded and that it had upheld Varnish's allegation.  "The board wishes to put on record its sincere regret that this happened. The findings of the investigation will help the development of the organisation," read a statement. 

Varnish relieved after British Cycling upholds sexism allegations against Sutton - October 28, 2016

Varnish reacted to British Cycling's announcement, expressing her relief that they ruled in her favour. “I’ve always believed in standing up for yourself, especially when you know things are wrong," she said. "It wasn’t easy for me to talk about this experience and I could’ve quite easily said and done nothing, but that isn’t me."

Shane Sutton: British Cycling investigation had no proof - October 30, 2016

Sutton himself reacted to the investigation's finding, with a bullish assertion that there couldn't have been sufficient proof to arrive at the conclusion. "I'm adamant that I am innocent," he said, adding: "One party in all of this has been proved to have told untruths and that party wasn't me."

Sutton denies being discriminatory towards para-cyclists - November 2, 2016

Sutton sought to exonerate himself from the allegations that he discriminated against para-cyclists, claiming he had no recollection of using the terms 'gimps' or 'wobblies'. "All the para people know that I have supported them 100 per cent," he said. "We've tried to give as much parity as possible, they wear the same suits, [have] the same bikes, the same helmets."

Sutton: I told Varnish to 'lose some timber' but not to 'have a baby' - November 3, 2016

Sutton gave a more expansive reaction to the internal investigation's findings in an interview with Sky Sports News, detailing his side of the story. "The conversation [about going and having a baby] has never taken place. If Jess can produce where the conversation took place, who was there at the time – and I believe it was only me and her – so I'm trying to understand how they've arrived at that decision given it's her word against mine."

He admitted that conversations about Varnish's weight did indeed take place but not "in the terms it has been described in the press", and that it was exclusively performance-related - "we are about performance and Jess hadn't done that for quite some time."

Varnish to appeal British Cycling internal inquiry on Sutton - December 7, 2016

Just over a month after British Cycling's announcement of its internal investigation, the BBC revealed that just one of Varnish's nine complaints had been upheld. Sutton was found to guilty of "use of the word 'bitches'" but none of the other allegations were upheld. "I am shocked and upset by this latest news, and have instructed my solicitor to appeal the findings of the internal investigation on my behalf," Varnish said.

Varnish steps up case against Sutton with British Cycling - December 14, 2016

The Guardian reported that Varnish's legal team had made a sweeping request for information from British Cycling. They demanded all text messages between Sutton and his coaches and any emails or documents that mentioned Varnish, as well as performance data, medical records, personnel files and the full report on the internal investigation.

Cooke calls out British Cycling for 'blatant sexism' - January 24, 2017

Former world and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke appeared in Parliament before the Culture, Media, and Sport Committee and gave a withering assessment of British Cycling’s record of sexism, saying it's a sport 'run by men, for men'. 

Report into British Cycling sexism and bullying allegations delayed until next month - February 8, 2017

The Guardian reported that the publication of UK Sport's independent investigation into the culture at British Cycling would be delayed until March to give more individuals the opportunity to give evidence, and also that the final report would be redacted in places to alleviate the risk of libel action from those implicated or criticised.

British Cycling accused of burying 2012 report detailing bullying - February 21, 2017

British Cycling CEO Peter King reportedly conducted extensive interviews and solicited anonymous feedback after the London Olympic Games, but the full report which could have highlighted the issues of bullying were never shared with UK Sport or even the full British Cycling board.

Varnish lawyers accuse British Cycling of withholding information - March 1, 2017

Varnish's lawyers in December requested from British Cycling all performance data, medical records and all emails and text messages relating to the case, but were only given a heavily redacted report.

Independent review into British Cycling makes for 'uncomfortable reading' - Report - March 10, 2017

The Daily Mail received a redacted copy of the independent investigation's report, which states that the British Cycling board 'sanitised' the internal review of Varnish's claims, ignoring the grievance officer's findings. The panel wrote: "The actions of the British Cycling Board in that regard are shocking and inexcusable. They also call into serious question whether the composition of the British Cycling Board is fit to govern a national sporting body."

Varnish calls on British Cycling board to resign - March 11, 2017

Former British track rider calls on the board of British Cycling to resign after a leaked version of the UK Sport's review of the body was published by the Daily Mail.

Pooley on Brailsford: A fish rots from the head - March 13, 2017

In an interview with the The Times, Emma Pooley 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.

Olympic medal 'obsession' at heart of British Cycling culture clash? - March 15, 2017

The Guardian spoke to sources inside UK Sport and were told that the agency "went easy" on British Cycling because they were the main medal winners at the Olympic Games. The stance allowed the 'culture of fear' to go unchecked in British Cycling.

King: I was never fearful at British Cycling - March 18, 2017

 Olympic gold medallist Dani King told Cyclingnews that she did not feel that there was a culture of fear at British Cycling while she raced on its track programme. King also reiterated her comments that she had not endured any sexism, saying that former technical director Shane Sutton was tough on both men and women.

Wendy Houvenaghel accuses British Cycling of 'ageism' and a 'win-at-all-cost' culture - March 24

In an interview with the BBC, former track cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel accused British Cycling of 'ageism' and said she was 'frozen out' of opportunities in the build-up to the 2012 Olympic Games despite being one of their top performers at the time.


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