Former British Cycling president Tony Doyle has questioned the all-female make-up of an independent commission examining allegations of a deeply entrenched culture of sexism within the organisation in a BBC 5 radio interview this morning.
The allegations of sexism and discrimination were raised by sprinter Jess Varnish, who was dismissed from consideration for the Rio Olympic Games. She claimed that technical director Shane Sutton told her, "I'd been on the programme too long, that I was too old at the age of 25. Shane said that I should just move on and go and have a baby."
Sutton was suspended and then resigned from BC before the organisation requested an independent commission "to understand what needs to potentially change culturally within British Cycling to ensure that the highest standards of ethical behaviour exist within and across the whole World Class Programme".
Doyle, 59, criticized the review to presenter Clare McDonnell on the live morning show today.
"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.
Doyle is correct in stating that there are three women on the commissioning board in charge of the review - it is chaired by British Rowing's Annemarie Phelps, with UK Sport CEO Liz Nicholl and BC director Marian Lauder. But, according to the UK Sport web site, there is a review board made up of two men and two women who make up an expert panel. That panel includes rugby coach Stuart Lancaster, barrister John Mehrzad, former hockey player Annie Panter and London Olympic cultural director Jude Kelly CBE.
The independent commission was assembled after a number of high-profile female athletes from Britsh Cycling stepped forward to back up Varnish's allegations of a culture of sexism in the organisation.
Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton said earlier this year that her experiences with British Cycling were similar to those described by Varnish. "I never really felt I had the same respect as my male teammates. My opinion wasn't worth as much. I used to sit quietly in meetings and not say anything as I knew my opinions would be disregarded. And that's after I had become Olympic champion and multiple world champion," Pendleton said.
Emma Pooley said the investigation should go across to David Brailsford, the former performance director of British Cycling. Another Olympic gold medalist, Nicole Cooke, also confirmed the bias and said it extended up through the Brian Cookson-led UCI. "The world governing body has set the tone – women are second-class citizens. It runs all the way up to events like the Tour de France."
Sutton resigned in the wake of the claims, but received support from a number of men within British Cycling including current BC CEO Ian Drake, riders Chris Boardman, Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh and Bradley Wiggins.
The commission was due to wrap up its findings in September and submit a final report. Anyone wishing to provide information confidentially can e-mail the independent commission at: email@example.com.
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