Sir Chris Hoy: Six-time Olympic champion defends British Cycling

Sir Chris Hoy
Sir Chris Hoy won six gold medals over four Olympic Games between 2000 and 2012

Britain's six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy says allegations of bullying "are not experiences I recognise from my time at British Cycling".

Over the past year, several athletes have made claims of discrimination, which British Cycling denies.

Scottish ex-track cyclist Hoy, 41, said "every one of the riders has the right for their grievances to be heard".

But he added he felt the subject had become "sensationalised" through "very public mudslinging and media coverage".

The most recent athlete to come forward was ex-rider Wendy Houvenaghel, who said a "medal at any cost" approach created a "culture of fear" at British Cycling.

Jess Varnish first spoke about her experience within British Cycling after she was dropped from the elite programme last April.

She claimed former technical director Shane Sutton used sexist language towards her, and the Australian, who quit in the wake of the allegations, was found to have used the word "bitches" when describing female riders.

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March 2017: Varnish 'relieved truth is coming out'

"It feels terrible to think that anyone has ever experienced bullying or discrimination during their time with British Cycling," Hoy said.

"As an elite athlete, I trained to win. Training was at times brutal - it has to be when you want to represent your country and to be the world's best.

"I believe all of this contributed to help bring out the best in me when it counted. I would not have achieved what I did without them and will be forever grateful for what they did."

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'Some may argue it's too little, too late'

An investigation into the culture at British Cycling was launched last year after ex-riders complained about their treatment.

A report on its findings is imminent, but after a draft version was leaked in March, British Cycling chairman Jonathan Browning apologised for "failings" and said the governing body would be making changes to be more caring to riders.

That includes a 39-point action plan to "systematically address the cultural and behavioural shortcomings". On Thursday, Michael Chivers was appointed as new 'people director'.

On BBC Radio 5 live on Friday, Chivers was asked whether athlete welfare would ever be prioritised over medal success.

He said: "The culture is high performance and challenge. Our athletes do not want to finish second.

"If we can create a high-support environment... we can actually be more successful going forward. But no, we can never sacrifice the success. This makes Britain proud."

Hoy added: "Every organisation has a responsibility to stamp out bullying and discrimination.

"From what I read and understand through various conversations, British Cycling recognise they've fallen short in a number of areas.

"Some may argue it's too little too late, but even for those who did feel let down by British Cycling in the past, it's encouraging to know that it is now engaging with those riders.

"I don't doubt for one second that every single person involved in this process has the interests of our sport at heart."

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