British Cycling report: Damian Collins MP’s comments ‘ill-informed’, Jess Varnish not happy

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Cycling report ‘not a whitewash’ – Phelps

British cycling’s two most senior figures should resign in the wake of an independent review into failings in the sport, an MP says.

Culture, Media and Sport select committee chairman Damian Collins MP has called for a “complete change”.

But British Cycling responded by saying his comments were “ill-informed”.

Former Olympic rider Jess Varnish also reacted angrily to the findings in the report, which was triggered by her claims of sexism and bullying.

“I am insulted. It shows what the people are like in there [British Cycling],” she told The Times.

And her lawyer Tom Barnard said Varnish is now considering legal action.

“The report was a whitewash. But what particularly disappoints her is that she was not given a chance to respond to some of the claims made about her, as others obviously were for criticisms of them,” Barnard said.

“The final report refers to her as a ‘ring-leader’ and ‘trouble-maker’. It’s surprising to us that she wasn’t allowed to reply to this, given the fact she kicked it all this off and is mentioned throughout the report.”

  • Report in detail: British Cycling ‘lacked good governance’

Collins, who is standing to continue as the committee’s chairman as parliamentary business returns after the General Election, said: “None of the members of the board from the period covered in the investigation should remain, which would mean that Jonathan Browning should stand aside from his position as chairman.”

The MP for Folkestone and Hythe added that Brian Cookson, president of British Cycling from 1996 to 2013, should not be re-elected as International Cycling Union president or receive support from UK Sport for his re-election campaign.

Fellow Conservative MP Julian Knight, who has also sat on the select committee, said: “This report highlights that there were major failings at British Cycling and UK Sport was asleep on its watch.”

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But a spokesperson for the British Cycling board said: “Damian Collins’ criticisms of British Cycling are ill-informed and do not take account of the changes underway at the organisation.

“Jonathan Browning’s role in introducing and maintaining the pace of change at British Cycling since becoming chair in February 2017 is unmatched in sport.

“Brian Cookson served as British Cycling president from 1997 until 2013, having joined an emergency committee in 1996 to save British Cycling from insolvency. He has made an enormous contribution to the sport in this country and around the world and we wish him every best wish as he seeks re-election for the role of UCI president.

“Change is very much in train at British Cycling. Damian Collins would be very welcome to come to the National Cycling Centre, whenever he would like, to understand and witness the transformation that is underway.”

The report criticised British Cycling’s board, former technical director Shane Sutton and funding agency UK Sport.

It said British Cycling lacked good governance at board level and a “culture of fear” existed within the team, according to many staff members.

The chair of the review, Annamarie Phelps, denied the long-awaited report was “a whitewash” after a more damning draft was leaked in March.

British Cycling has introduced various changes since the claims, while UK Sport has promised a “root and branch” review of world-class programmes and denied it put medals before athlete welfare.

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‘Cycling report uncomfortable reading’

‘I am not a troublemaker’

Track cyclist Varnish, 26, may take legal action after she was dropped from the Olympic squad in March 2016 and alleged she had been bullied and sexually discriminated against by Sutton.

Australian Sutton, who quit in the wake of her allegations, was later found guilty of using sexist language towards her but cleared of eight of nine charges against him. He was also cleared of any bullying allegations.

Varnish dismissed the suggestion she had been a troublemaker while on the team.

That claim featured in the report, with Varnish cited in evidence given to the panel as being “perceived as the ‘ringleader’ for the criticism against WCP (world-class programme) coaching staff” and that she “was also viewed as a troublemaker”.

“Anyone who knows me knows I am not a troublemaker or ringleader. No one has ever been removed from the programme the way I was,” she said.

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March 2017: Varnish ‘relieved truth is coming out’

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