Shane Sutton: Former British Cycling coach was ‘loved by staff’ despite bullying claims

Cycling


Shane Sutton was part of the coaching set up at British Cycling which saw Sir Chris Hoy become one of Great Britain’s most successful Olympians

Former British Cycling coach Shane Sutton says he is still “loved by the staff” at the organisation.

The Australian left his technical director role in April 2016 following bullying and discrimination allegations, and an inquiry found he operated within a “culture of fear”.

He is back at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester as head coach of China for the Track Cycling World Cup

“The reception’s been a bit overwhelming,” he told BBC Sport.

“That’s been a bit tough to take because it brings all the memories back,” added the 60-year-old, who spent 14 years with British Cycling and took on his new role just last month.

“People criticise me from a distance but when you get down here into the nitty gritty of the day to day I was pretty much loved by the staff, I’ve treated them well and that’s shown in the reception I’ve had.

“It’s nice to hear them saying you’re being missed.”

Sutton was cleared of eight of nine allegations in an internal investigation following the initial complaints from cyclist Jess Varnish.

But a complaint that he used sexist language towards her – that he used the word “bitches” – was upheld.

Varnish is now suing British Cycling and UK Sport.

A later independent inquiry led by British Rowing chair Annamarie Phelps found there were cultural failings at British Cycling and was also critical of Sutton.

A key finding was that many staff feared possible retribution or even losing their jobs for speaking out.

British Cycling has apologised for its failings and earlier this month chairman Jonathan Browning announced he was standing down.

But, on Saturday, Sutton was critical of the outcome of the reports and said: “That’s just people probably trying to build their own empire.

“Until you’re in the pit and know what’s going on I don’t really think you can make decisions that they’ve made.

“The review process is not what many perceive here.

“And the reception I’ve had here shows that.”

‘Overwhelming reception’ for Sutton on return

Former performance director Sir Dave Brailsford – now Team Sky boss – worked alongside Sutton and was forced to defend himself over the claims he had been part of “dysfunctional” system at British Cycling.

Brailsford joined the body in 2003 – a year after Sutton – leading them to two cycling gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games, and eight in both 2008 and 2012.

“One of the great leaders of world sport, and he comes in for criticism – and it’s totally unjustified,” said Sutton.

And when asked about the “bitches” comment that ultimately saw him leave British Cycling, Sutton said: “People don’t know the circumstances where I used that comment.

“It was used as a general comment – a couple of people playing up on the day. That’s not actually going up to an athlete and saying you are a ‘whatever’. That wasn’t the case. I think people need to know that.

“At the end of the day I can sleep of a night. I’ve got no problem with it all.”

However, he appeared critical over Varnish’s decision to take legal action against the organisation.

Varnish was dropped from British Cycling’s elite roster last year and when asked about legal action being taken Sutton said: “I think it’s just someone trying to keep a profile.

“There’s a very small athletic profile there so if you can get yourself in the media: fantastic.

“But for me it’s all done and dusted and I just wish British Cycling all the best going forward, because the majority of them don’t forget I brought them here.”



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