Independent review into British Cycling makes for 'uncomfortable reading' - Report

According to a report in The Daily Mail, the British Cycling independent review into allegations of sexism has found several major flaws with the governance structure of the national body.

The leaked review, announced in April 2016, of BC's 'climate and culture', concluded there existed a 'culture of fear', 'dysfunctional leadership structure', and that the investigation into Jess Varnish's claims of sexism against Shane Sutton was 'inept.'

The Daily Mail also reports that Bradley Wiggins, Laura Kenny and Mark Cavendish opted out of giving evidence as the panel received no feedback from members of the track endurance or male road programme.

The report comes a week after UKAD launched a damning attack on Team Sky and British Cycling over medical practices and Cyclingnews reported that Team Sky riders have considered asking Dave Brailsford to resign.

Varnish was dropped from the Olympic team last April. She claimed former Technical Director Shane Sutton had told her to "move on and go and have a baby," a claim that Sutton has denied, although an internal investigation by BC upheld allegations of sexism against the Australian.

However, the independent panel found the report was "sanitised" by the board with "harder-hitting investigative findings" by grievance officer, Alex Russell, excluded from the final version.

"The apparently deliberate reversal of the grievance officer’s draft outcome by the British Cycling Board gives every impression of it trying to achieve that aim," says the report. "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."

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There is further criticism of the board by the review panel the handling of the matter.

"The Panel is also aware that, rather than authorising its appointed grievance officer to come to conclusions following their investigations into the former technical director, the conclusions were to be decided upon by the British Cycling Board collectively," says the draft copy of the review.

The manner in which Varnish was dropped from the programme also came under fire from the panel.

"In the situation involving Jess Varnish, the panel did not find explanations convincing from coaching-staff that she could go from being a border-line Olympian (in fact, potentially an Olympic medallist) to not being good enough… within a week.

"An athlete would have to have been given a warning and also a reasonable period to improve before removal. Varnish was not given a warning or any period of time to improve. She was simply removed."

British Cycling's board came under further criticism for allowing Dave Brailsford, then Sutton from 2014, to run the organisation without supervision, with claims the Team Sky principal made staff "like second class citizens". There was also criticism of the 'blurred' boundaries between British Cycling and Team Sky. Sutton also came under fire for being unsuitable for a leadership role, and that when he left British Cycling, he was placed "on garden-leave at a level of salary which was higher than had he remained".

With British Cycling dominating the Olympic medal table at the last three games, the panel suggests that issues of governance were overlooked with the focus on success.

"Since the late 2000s cracks, in terms of the climate and culture, have been present," says the draft report. "Instead of being repaired as they should have been, those cracks were ignored in pursuit of medal success."

The panel adds that their findings are likely to make for 'uncomfortable reading' for British Cycling and UK Sport. Further, a 2012 report written by Peter King that investigated several of the issues "was at most only distributed to three individuals" with no full copy being provided to UK Sport.

A statement from British Cycling stated it recognised "specific shortcomings in the governance of the organisation and especially within the World Class Programme," adding that "despite the fact the board of British Cycling may disagree with the factual accuracy of certain points or commentary in the draft independent review, it has chosen to embrace the recommendations and findings and to use these to continue to develop its operating practices with clear, timed actions."

The Daily Mail also reports that the likes of Brailsford and Sutton will have the opportunity to respond to the report before it is published. 

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