Many British cyclists were terrified of Shane Sutton, says top BMX rider
Shane Sutton’s resignation has been welcomed by several riders in the British Cycling squad but some have warned that his decision to quit as technical director will not end the organisation’s problems.
The BMX rider Tre Whyte has told The Guardian the atmosphere in British Cycling was terrible and senior management was to blame. Emma Pooley, who won an Olympic silver medal in the time trial in 2008, has admitted her frustration that the organisation has not done enough for women riders.
Shane Sutton, who mentored Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins to Olympic success before taking over the top role in British Cycling in 2014, was already under scrutiny after allegations of sexism made by the track rider Jess Varnish at the weekend. But he was left with little option but to resign after he was also accused of calling members of Britain’s hugely successful Paralympic cycling squad “wobblies” and “gimps”.
Sutton, who denies all the allegations, said he had decided to quit because his presence had become a distraction. “It is for this reason, and having spoken to friends and family, that I believe it is in the best interests of British Cycling for me to step down from my position as technical director,” he said.
Tre Whyte, a BMX rider on the podium programme, claimed that many riders were terrified of Sutton. “I’m not scared of him but I know some people who are intimidated by the way he comes across,” he said. He also backed the 25-year-old Varnish – who has claimed that Sutton said she was “too old” and “should just move on and go and have a baby” – saying: “I’ve met Jess lots of times and she just says it how it is. She’s not a liar.”
Whyte, who is rated the third best BMX rider in the UK, has recently been locked in a battle with Sutton and others on the British Cycling selection panel after they refused to allow him to compete in the forthcoming World Championships in Medellin, Colombia, much to his frustration. He told The Guardian that the current atmosphere within British Cycling was not good.
“I feel, walking into the building, I don’t feel that proud to pull on the GB jersey any more,” he added. “When I walk into the building I don’t feel that supported by senior management. My coaches around me are really supportive and they know I want to train and get faster and are doing as much as I need – the nutritionist and the doctors and the gym coaches and physiotherapist. But not when it comes to senior management, whose vote actually counts and whose support I need the most.”
An independent inquiry, in conjunction with UK Sport, has been set up to examine the allegations of sexism and bullying and the culture in the British cycling team. The Guardian understands that a figure with stature and credibility from outside British Cycling will be appointed to chair the investigation in the coming days and the report is likely to be published before August.