LONDON (AFP) — Dave Brailsford, the man behind Britain’s rise as a cycling power, was labeled as being “untouchable” in a leaked review of British Cycling and its handling of sexism allegations against a top coach. The review also questioned whether British Cycling’s board was fit to govern after what it characterized as “shocking and inexcusable action” related to accusations of bullying.
At the same time, Brailsford spoke with a handful of reporters before the start of Friday’s stage 3 at Tirreno-Adriatico and insisted he will not resign from his post at Sky.
“No,” Brailsford told Cycling Weekly when asked if he was considering stepping down from his role.
“My thoughts are about what’s good for the team and what’s right. We’re just here to win as many races as possible and do it the right way and that’s my primary concern and that’s what I think about.”
The British Cycling federation admitted mistakes after the publication of the review Friday by The Daily Mail. British Cycling is already reeling from revelations it mishandled the drug records of star rider Bradley Wiggins, with Brailsford, now in charge of Team Sky, again in the firing line.
Shane Sutton, Brailsford’s longtime lieutenant and widely regarded as one of the world top cycling coaches, resigned as British Cycling’s technical director last April after rider Jess Varnish alleged the Australian had told her to “go and have a baby” after she failed to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and had her public funding cut.
The Daily Mail, citing the draft copy of an independent review into the governing body by UK Sport, said an inquiry led by British Cycling’s grievance officer Alex Russell found “considerably more” than one of the nine claims against Sutton by Varnish could be proven.
It was revealed in December that Sutton had been found guilty of one count of using inappropriate language but that there was insufficient evidence to support eight other charges.
Later, a review of British Cycling’s performance program — which has produced a host of top riders — led by British Rowing chair Annamarie Phelps was set up.
According to the Mail, the review said British Cycling looked to change Russell’s conclusions in a bid to retain the highly regarded Sutton.
“The actions of the British Cycling board in that regard are shocking and inexcusable,” the paper quoted the review as saying.
“They also call into serious question whether the composition of the British Cycling board is fit to govern a national sporting body.”
The review reportedly said British Cycling had been badly governed for years.
According to the Mail, the review said former performance director Brailsford, now in charge of Team Sky, had been an “untouchable” figure.
Management was “characterized by fear and bullying from leadership figures.”
“Since the late 2000s, cracks in terms of the climate and culture have been present,” the report added.
“Instead of being repaired as they should have been, those cracks were ignored in pursuit of medal success.”
That will make uncomfortable reading for UK Sport, which has a “no compromise” formula for funding based solely on prospects of medal success.
British Cycling said in a statement it accepted “that the world class program leadership focused on athlete performance and medal delivery without sufficient care and attention to the overall staff and athlete culture and environment.”
Last week, British Cycling was criticized by UK Anti-Doping before a committee of lawmakers for failing to keep proper records of drugs given to riders.
UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said British cycling officials had told her information relating to Wiggins had been lost after a team doctor’s computer was stolen on holiday in Greece in 2014.
An eight-time Olympic gold medalist, Wiggins has faced repeated questions since Russian hackers Fancy Bears revealed documents last September, which showed he received therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for the corticosteroid triamcinolone to coincide with three major races in 2011, 2012, and 2013 — including his victory in the 2012 Tour de France.
Corticosteroids are only allowed with restrictions, and the World Anti-Doping Agency is considering a blanket ban on them in competition.
TUEs are official notes allowing athletes to use otherwise banned substances for the treatment of legitimate medical conditions. Many within cycling claim the system is open to abuse.
Wiggins, however, has always denied any wrongdoing and insisted he needed the treatment to deal with a pollen allergy.