British Cycling was 'driven by fear' - Paralympian Simon Richardson

Simon Richardson
Simon Richardson won two golds and a silver at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing

Welsh Paralympian Simon Richardson says discrimination against disabled cyclists has been a long-standing issue.

British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton has resigned amid claims of sexism and discrimination.

Richardson said Sutton was among "high level coaches" that were guilty of discrimination.

He says they stopped disabled and women "from actually getting the equipment and the support they should have".

Sutton had been suspended while British Cycling investigated allegations of derogatory comments about Para-cyclists.

"It's been happening for a while," Richardson told the BBC.

"When I was in the sport we were getting bullied to a degree where we wouldn't get the right equipment.

"We were always in a situation that if you spoke out you'd get sacked. It was always that way of doing it.

"The top able-bodied men and women could speak out.

"But when you came down to disabled [athletes] they would always say 'we don't need you, we can find somebody else to take your spot'.

Shane Sutton
Shane Sutton was appointed British Cycling's technical director in 2014 when Sir Dave Brailsford stepped down

"It was driven a lot on fear because it was all money-orientated and fear-orientated."

Richardson won two gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, but missed London 2012 after suffering multiple injuries after being hit by a drink-driver while training in 2011.

Jess Varnish, who was dropped from the GB team after failing to qualify for the sprint team for Rio, alleged that Sutton made sexist comments and told her to "go and have a baby".

Sutton, a GB coach since 2002, denies the 25-year-old's claims, which include him making a sexist comment about her body shape.

British Cycling had already begun an "independent review" into its performance programmes following Varnish's comments.

Former multiple World and Paralympic Champion Darren Kenny told the Daily Mail he heard members of the British disability team referred to as "gimps" and "wobblies".

Richardson, a Great Britain team-mate of Kenny's at the 2008 Paralympics, also felt para-cyclists were not treated with respect.

"One thing that happened to us on the track, we were chucked off the track by the men's able bodied (group) because one athlete would not train with us because he was afraid of the 'wobblies' taking him off," Richardson added.

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"It was certain people within the sport on the men's side and also certain coaches and people like Shane at that high level that stopped the disabled and the women from actually getting the equipment and the support they should have."

Richardson's fellow Welsh para-cyclist Mark Colbourne said he had not personally experienced discrimination during his career.

Colbourne, now retired after winning track gold and silver at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, said such comments had no place in sport.

"If that is true I would be disgusted and obviously ashamed for somebody of that nature to have possibly said those words," Colbourne told BBC Radio Wales.

"In my experience I've not had any of those words mentioned or said to me directly or face to face.

"I had a great time at British Cycling, certainly under the para-cycling umbrella of the World Class programme, and never had any of those experiences directed to me."

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