Former British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton, who left his post with the federation last year amid bullying and discrimination allegations, is back in Manchester this weekend as coach of the Chinese team and told the BBC his positive reception has been "overwhelming."
"That's been a bit tough to take because it brings all the memories back," Sutton told the BBC while at the UCI Track World Cup II. "People criticise me from a distance, but when you get down here into the nitty gritty of the day-to-day, I was pretty much loved by the staff. I've treated them well and that's shown in the reception I've had.
"It's nice to hear them saying you're being missed," he said.
Sutton joined British Cycling in 2002 and stepped up to technical director in 2014 before he resigned in April of last year when sprinter Jess Varnish alleged that Sutton had made sexist comments towards her, telling her to "move on and go and have a baby" when he dropped her from the 2016 Olympic programme after the World Championships. It was later alleged by former Paralympic gold medallist Darren Kenny that Sutton had referred to Paralympic athletes as gimps.
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An investigation eventually cleared Sutton of all but one of the charges against him, finding that he used sexist language, including the word "bitches," toward Varnish, who has since filed a lawsuit against British Cycling and UK Sport.
British Cycling has undergone several changes since the allegations came out with Julie Harrington coming in as CEO and Stephen Park stepping into the performance director role. Coach Heiko Salzwedel was sacked earlier this month while Dr Richard Freeman departed the set-up after being embroiled in the 'jiffy bag' revelations that followed the release of hacked Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs).
Since his departure from British Cycling, Sutton had been linked with a number of national squads, including his native Australia, but that position was taken by British coach Simon Jones.
Sutton announced his new deal with the Chinese ferderaion in October, and he returned to his former home velodrome and British Cycling headquarters for the three-day World Cup this week.
On Saturday, he dismissed much of the report and its findings.
"That's just people probably trying to build their own empire," he told the BBC. "Until you're in the pit and know what's going on I don't really think you can make decisions that they've made. The review process is not what many perceive here. And the reception I've had here shows that."
Sutton used the interview with the BBC to defend Dave Brailsford, who started at British Cycling a year after Sutton and now runs Team Sky, saying criticism of Brailsford's and Team Sky's practices are "unjustified."
As for his use of the world "bitches" when addressing riders, Sutton said people were not aware of the circumstances.
"It was used as a general comment - a couple of people playing up on the day," he said. "That's not actually going up to an athlete and saying you are a 'whatever'. That wasn't the case. I think people need to know that. At the end of the day I can sleep of a night. I've got no problem with it all."
Sutton was also dismissive of Varnish's lawsuit.
"I think it's just someone trying to keep a profile," he said. "There's a very small athletic profile there, so if you can get yourself in the media: fantastic.
"But for me it's all done and dusted," he said, "and I just wish British Cycling all the best going forward, because the majority of them don't forget I brought them here."
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