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LONDON (AFP) — British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake said Friday he had no prior knowledge of allegations of discrimination toward Paralympic riders, which prompted the resignation of technical director Shane Sutton.
The 58-year-old Australian quit on Wednesday, just 100 days before the start of the Rio Olympics, saying he did not want to be a “distraction” for British riders in the build-up to the Games.
Sutton stood down following allegations he had told British sprinter Jess Varnish to “go and have a baby” after she was dropped from the team, and called Paralympic cyclists “gimps.”
A key figure behind the scenes in the success of British cyclists at both the Beijing and London Olympics, Sutton was suspended by British Cycling late on Tuesday after the “gimp” allegation was made public.
That announcement came soon after British Cycling launched an independent review into claims he had been sexist in his treatment of Varnish.
Sutton has denied all the allegations of discrimination against him and has said he will cooperate with the review.
Meanwhile attention has shifted to what British Cycling chiefs knew and when, amid allegations that officials had previously been informed of concerns about Sutton’s conduct but chose not to act.
However, Drake said Friday, “I have never been made aware, formally or informally, of any allegation that Shane Sutton had used the offensive term ‘gimps’ in reference to Paralympic athletes prior to the media reports of the past few days.
“The suggestion that I would have not acted on such an allegation is wholly wrong.”
An internal performance review conducted after the London 2012 Olympic Games by Drake’s predecessor, Peter King, has yet to be published or made available to senior staff, although the governing body has said it will be disclosed to the review.
Britain won eight gold medals at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics — taking seven out of 10 events on the track at each Games — when Dave Brailsford was performance director and Sutton his deputy as head coach. The team won 25 more golds in the 2008 and 2012 Paralympics.
Sutton was named technical director of British Cycling, succeeding Brailsford, who left to concentrate on his role with Team Sky in April 2014. Formerly with Welsh Cycling, Sutton joined British Cycling in 2002.
Sutton has a reputation for being blunt with riders, but Britain’s Dani King, a London 2012 cycling gold medallist, told Tuesday’s London Evening Standard, “Shane is a no-nonsense kind of guy. But he was no-nonsense with the men as well as the women.”
Meanwhile Laura Trott, one of Britain’s track stars who won two golds in front of her home crowd in 2012, issued a statement Wednesday in which she said she had only ever had a “wholly positive and healthy working relationship” with Sutton.