Ian Drake, CEO of British Cycling, has confirmed that he will leave his position in April next year, saying it is the "right moment" for himself and the governing body to part ways.
Drake's departure was reported on BBC Radio Five Live on Thursday night, and British Cycling released a statement on Friday morning confirming that the he will step aside after seven years at the helm.
Drake, who has been involved with British Cycling since 1995 and succeeded Peter King as CEO in 2009, has overseen a golden age for cycling in the UK, in which participation at grassroots level has rocketed. On top of the 14 Olympic gold medals won across the London and Rio Games, the organisation has recently acquired a major new sponsor in HSBC and has landed the 2019 Road World Championships.
The success, however, has not been without controversy, and Drake's resignation comes towards the end of one of the most difficult years for the organisation. Performance director Shane Sutton resigned in April in the midst of a sexism scandal, while anti-doping concerns have been raised by Jonathan Tiernan-Locke's allegations that tramadol was offered to riders at the 2012 Road World Championships, and by a BC employee's role in the delivery of a mystery medical package to Team Sky at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine.
The latter issue has raised concerns over the relationship – and crossover of resources – between the governing body and Team Sky, who have been at the centre of the storm created by revelations of Bradley Wiggins' three injections of triamcinolone under Therapeutic Use Exemptions.
Although British Cycling are currently holding an internal investigation into the Sutton saga, and being investigated by UK Anti Doping over "allegations of wrongdoing", Drake's departure statement made no reference to the turbulence currently shaking the sport.
"Some time ago I made the decision that the Rio Games would be my last as CEO of British Cycling. I believe that 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," said Drake.
"I have been involved with British Cycling in some form for almost 20 years, the last eight as CEO, and it is an organisation that I will always love. I have been privileged to be a part of the amazing success we have experienced over those two decades and I know that it will go on to even greater heights in the years to come.
"All organisations, particularly those operating at the highest level of sport, periodically require new leadership to take them to greater heights and tackle their new challenges – now is the right moment for both myself and British Cycling to move on."
Drake joined British Cycling in 1995 as a consultant involved development schemes for young riders and moved up the ranks to become Participation and Operations Director in 2004, Deputy Chief Executive in 2007, and CEO in 2009.
"I want to put on record my personal thanks to Ian for all he has done for British Cycling during a period of unprecedented success and growth at all levels - from the remarkable achievements at recent Olympic and Paralympic Games, to the extraordinary growth in participation, Ian has been a pivotal figure in it all," said British Cycling president Bob Howden.
The British Cycling board will now begin a search for Drake's replacement, while a recruitment process is already ongoing to find a new performance director to succeed Sutton.
'Uncomfortable mistakes were made'
Drake may not have made any link between his departure and the recent string of controversies, but for former BC president Tony Doyle, it's impossible to extricate the two.
"I'm very surprised, it seems to me to be very clever timing by Ian Drake," he said on Five Live last night, naming Peter King and former performance director Peter Keen as the “architects” of British Cycling's success.
"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."
Speaking to the Telegraph, Drake denied the suggestion, saying his departure is something that has been brewing for some time.
"Yeah, people are likely to make the connection but I think people who know me, the people who are around me at a grassroots level, they know it's not because of that," he said. "It has been a difficult year but my decision to move on is completely separate to that. It's just the time is right.”
Peter Keen also appeared on the Five Live programme and, although he pointed to the “extraordinary” success under Drake, he also conceded there were serious shortcomings during his time at the top.
"Undoubtedly through his leadership, mistakes were made. They're uncomfortable and I know it hurts Ian when they're raised," said Keen.
"But they reflect a whole series of things done with good intention that weren't thought through, and managed as well as they could be, arising from extraordinary levels of success. It was all moving so quick. The results have been extraordinary, but some of the underlying mechanisms are clearly not fit for purpose, and that's painful to have to acknowledge because I was part of the journey that led to that."