Jonathan Browning, the chair of British Cycling, has announced he will step down from the voluntary position on December 1, as the British national federation continues to try to make amends and make a fresh start after a series of scandals and investigations.
Browning only took over the important role from Bob Howden in February. He had reapplied for the role under a new code for sports governance in Britain but then decided to withdraw his candidacy before a board meeting on Wednesday.
"When I stepped into the role of chair in February, British Cycling was in the depths of a crisis, facing severe reputational damage and there was an absence of strong, visible leadership. It was clear to me that we needed to very quickly stabilise the organisation and put in place a comprehensive plan to rapidly introduce major changes to the World Class Programme and to our leadership, operations and governance which were in need of immediate reform and repair," Browning, a former US CEO of car maker Volkswagen, said in a statement from British Cycling.
"Over the past nine months, we have done exactly that. The efforts of so many across British Cycling – including both staff and riders – have resulted in: a comprehensive set of plans to address every recommendation within the Cycling Independent Review; approval for all the changes required for British Cycling to comply with the Code for Sports Governance; funding secured from UK Sport and Sport England for the Tokyo Olympic cycle; the implementation of a new medical services staff and structure; new grievance, whistleblowing and athlete representation processes; and the commissioning and implementation of recommendations from an external financial audit. On top of all this, and perhaps most critically, we have appointed strong new leaders including Julie Harrington, our chief executive officer, and Stephen Park, our performance director."
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British Cycling has developed massively as its athletes and teams became successful and now has over 120,00 members. However it has been reeling in recent years after a series claims about bullying, discrimination and malpractice within the Great Britain team.
An independent investigation and report gave a damning verdict on the high performance programme's culture, despite the many Olympic medals won. Former performance Director Shane Sutton quit and a shadow was cast on Great Britain's success in light of Jess Varnish's allegations of sexism and discrimination.
UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) is still investigating allegations of wrongdoing in the medical department, and British Cycling’s links to Team Sky have also come under close scrutiny as UKAD investigate a potential anti-doping violation at the team managed by former Great Britain Performance Director Dave Brailsford.
Browning was initially seen as the right person to push through important changes at British Cycling as it evolved from a member-led organisation towards a more professional governance structure as demanded by Sport England and UK Sport who fund elite sport in Britain.
However Browning was a member of the British Cycling board at the time of Varnish's complaint. The British Cycling board mishandled its initial response to her claims, and Browning was later obliged to make a full public apology to Varnish.
Browning will remain as a non-executive director until the end of his three-year term in March but it is not clear if he will continue in that lesser role. The search for his replacement is already underway and an announcement is expected in the coming weeks.