GB Canoeing coach suspended after welfare complaint

Canoe Sprint

British Canoeing has become the latest national sports governing body to be embroiled in an athlete welfare controversy.

A coach was suspended last year following a formal complaint, the BBC has learned.

An independent investigation was then started, and is yet to be concluded.

British Canoeing enjoyed its most successful ever Olympic Games in Rio last year, with competitors winning two gold medals and two silvers.

ParalympicsGB then claimed three golds and two bronze medals at the Rio Paralympics, where they topped the medal table.

When contacted by BBC Sport, a British Canoeing spokesperson said: "We can confirm that, in response to a formal complaint in December 2016, a member of our performance team has been suspended.

"As a result, a full and independent investigation was immediately initiated.

"British Canoeing will not be making any further comment until this process has been concluded."

UK Sport also said it could not comment on an ongoing investigation but was aware of the latest claims.

It added: "Complaints and issues do occur in national governing bodies from time to time, and it's their responsibility to take these matters very seriously and to follow appropriate policies and procedures when addressing them."

The background

The revelations come amid mounting concern over the culture of high-performance programmes at British sports, and whether medal success has come at the expense of athlete welfare.

Last week, BBC Sport revealed British Swimming is conducting an investigation after bullying complaints were made by a number of Paralympians about a coach.

Last month, British Cycling apologised for various "failings" after an independent review into allegations of bullying and sexism.

A leaked draft version of the report, due for publication, found there was "a culture of fear" in the national velodrome, and "cracks in terms of the climate and culture… were ignored in pursuit of medal success".

Recently retired double Olympic track-racing champion Joanna Rowsell Shand told the Times this week she did not experience sexism at British Cycling.

However, several former riders and staff have complained about the way they were treated, with sprinter Jess Varnish saying she was the victim of bullying.

Former technical director Shane Sutton has always denied any wrongdoing, along with former performance director Sir Dave Brailsford.

British Cycling has introduced an action plan of reforms dedicated to improving training, governance and welfare, and has recently appointed a new chairman, chief executive and performance director.

Meanwhile, UK Athletics chief Ed Warner has called for the end of funding agency UK Sport's "no compromise" approach, saying "it has had its time". He said that a "fundamental review" into elite funding was also needed following a series of bullying allegations.

UK Sport is on the verge of appointing a new chairman with interviews taking place next week.

In 2016, the government asked former Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson to conduct a comprehensive 'duty of care review'.

Publication of her report is imminent, and expected to recommend significant reforms designed to improve the way athletes are treated by governing bodies.

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