Shane Sutton: British Cycling chief resigns amid sexism and discrimination claims

Sutton resigns amid discrimination row

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

He had been suspended while the sporting body investigated allegationsexternal-link of derogatory comments about Para-cyclists.

Great Britain cyclist Jess Varnish previously said Sutton made sexist comments towards her and told her to "go and have a baby".

Sutton "rejects the specific claims".

In a statement, the 58-year-old Australian said the allegations against him had "become a distraction" to British athletes and that he decided to step down "in the best interests of British Cycling".

His resignation comes on the day Great Britain's athletes start their 100-day countdown to the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Sutton denies wrongdoing

Sutton said: "It is important that the review announced by British Cycling and UK Sport now takes place, and I will obviously co-operate fully with this.

"I have made clear that I reject the specific claims that have been made against me in recent days, and I look forward to taking a full part in the review process so I can respond to the allegations in detail."

British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake added that programmes director Andy Harrison would take over and thanked Sutton for "his work with British Cycling and the part he has played in our success".

"I understand and respect Shane's decision to stand down. His primary focus has always been the athletes, and this decision is something he has taken to allow them to focus on their preparation for Rio," said Drake.

Sutton's predecessor, Sir Dave Brailsford, said the Australian's contribution to the success of British cycling had been "immense".

Brailsford, who oversaw a British team that won eight gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, said: "His sole focus has always been the athletes, and so it's understandable that if he feels this has become a distraction to their preparation for Rio he has put the interests of the team first and decided to stand down."

The sexism allegations

Sprinters blame bosses for Rio miss

Varnish, 25, who was dropped from the GB team after failing to qualify for the sprint team for Rio, said she spoke out against Sutton in order to change attitudes at British Cycling.

Sutton, who has been a GB coach since 2002, denies Varnish's claims, which include him making a sexist comment about her body shape.

He said that Varnish's contract was not renewed because her times had slowed over the past three years and she was unlikely to win a medal, saying she was "not up to the job".

"There was never any talk of babies," he told The Times.

He insisted he had never used the terminology "you've got a fat arse", adding: "I'm just really upset she would say that."

The disability discrimination claims

Darren Kenny, right, at the London 2012 Paralympic Games
Kenny, right, at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

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

It then started a further investigation and suspended Sutton on Wednesday after Darren Kenny, one of Britain's most decorated Para-cyclists, told the Daily Mail he heard members of the British disability team referred to as "gimps".

Kenny, 46, who won six Paralympic gold medals, later told BBC Sport the use of the word "became common".

"I never heard the term 'wobblies' but the other term, I don't think there is anyone at British Cycling who hasn't heard it. It was an everyday thing.

"I certainly had heard it used on numerous occasions. I imagine it was sometimes in jest and sometimes with intent behind it.

"Some people were offended by it, for others it went over their heads.

"I stayed away from the Manchester base as much as I could. I didn't enjoy my last five or six years there. I did have some great times. I am a grown-up and I could have chosen to leave earlier.

However, Kenny also said he felt Sutton "does a good job" and was "being made a scapegoat slightly". He claimed to have "heard other talk of other situations", adding the investigation was "not much of a surprise" because "we all know it happened time and time again".

"It does not achieve much cutting somebody off. It is about education and changing people's views rather than changing people," he continued.

"I would hope it does not destabilise British cycling. It is really one of the reasons why I never said anything before and kept quiet."

Who is Shane Sutton?

Sutton and Hoy embrace during the 2012 Games in London
Sutton and Hoy embrace during the 2012 Games in London

Sutton joined British Cycling as a coach in 2002 and was part of the team that won seven track gold medals at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

He was made technical director in 2014 when predecessor Sir Dave Brailsford stepped down after a decade in charge.

Sutton, who won Commonwealth Games gold as a rider, had been due to take charge of performance at the Rio Olympics, which begin on 5 August.

In 2009, British cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy described Suttonexternal-link as his mentor and said he had been "hugely influential in my success".

He said Sutton, who also mentored Sir Bradley Wiggins, is "so intense that there are times that the only thing you can do is fall out with him".

Hoy added: "Half the time you want to throttle the guy and the other half you are trying to get into his good books."

Reaction from British cyclists

Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish
Pendleton and Varnish competed together in the team sprint at London 2012

Olympic champions Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke both backed Varnish and criticised British Cycling.

"I know exactly how miserable they made me," said Pendleton, 35, now retired from track cycling. Cooke, 33, a road specialist who is also retired, added: "Speak out and your dreams will be destroyed and years of hard work wasted. Or put up with it and hope."

Joanna Rowsell Shand, 27, who competes on track and road, said she was "surprised" by the allegations and felt British Cycling's treatment of track riders was "very equal".

Fellow Olympic gold medallist Dani King, 25, said she had never been subjected to sexist comments by Sutton, and double London 2012 gold medallist Laura Trott, 24, said she had "only ever had a wholly positive and healthy working relationship" with him.

Peter Kennaugh, who won gold as part of the team pursuit at London 2012, told BBC Radio York: "The whole thing's quite sad. Shane's a great guy with a massive heart. It is a sport and if you are not meeting the standards which are very high at British Cycling, then unfortunately there's no place for you anymore.

"It is ruthless at this level. I think a lot of it has been blown out of proportion."

Key dates in Sutton's career:

  • 1978: Wins track team pursuit gold at Commonwealth Games
  • 1984: Moves to Great Britain
  • 1990: Wins Milk Race (now Tour of Britain)
  • 2002: Joins British Cycling as coach
  • 2008: Wins coach of the year award
  • 2010: Awarded OBE in Queen's birthday honours list
  • 2012: Diagnosed with bleeding on the brain after a bike crash in Manchester
  • 2014: Appointed technical director of British Cycling after Brailsford leaves

Top Stories