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British Cycling ‘may have crossed ethical lines’

British Cycling may have crossed ethical lines in its treatment of athletes in the past, according to the chairman of UK Sport Rod Carr.

The sport has faced allegations of bullying and sexism in its world class performance programme, and UK Sport is currently considering the findings of an independent inquiry into the culture and practices of the sport.

The conduct of leading coaches and officials including former performance director Sir Dave Brailsford and former technical director Shane Sutton has been examined, with evidence taken from scores of athletes and officials.

Sir Dave Brailsford hugs coach Shane Sutton at the 2012 London Olympics
Image Caption: Sir Dave Brailsford hugs coach Shane Sutton at the 2012 London Olympics

Mr Carr told Sky News the report may highlight historical conduct that would not be approved of today, and could establish “red lines” for how sports should balance athlete welfare with a competitive environment in future.

“When dealing with the number of sports that we’re dealing with, from time to time, over the last 20 years you’re bound to get things, particularly looking backwards over, where you think that could have been done better, we wouldn’t do that now,” he said.

“I fully accept that there are lines which shouldn’t and can’t be crossed and some of them may, or may not come out in this report but fundamentally, without ethical behaviour, then high performance sport is lost.

“We have to do it to high standards and UK Sport stands up for those high standards.”

Jess Varnish accused Shane Sutton of bullying
Image Caption: Jess Varnish accused Shane Sutton of bullying

The review, chaired by the chairman of British Rowing, Annamarie Phelps, was launched after rider Jess Varnish accused Mr Sutton of sexism and bullying.

Mr Sutton resigned but denied the allegations.

Earlier this year the British Cycling board upheld a complaint that he had described female riders as “bitches”.

The report has been handed to the UK Sport and British Cycling boards, but publication has been put back while those mentioned in the report are given the right to reply, and athletes anonymity is protected.

Laura Trott speaks with then technical director Shane Sutton at a competition in 2014
Image Caption: Shane Sutton was the technical director of British Cycling before he resigned

Sources have told Sky News the report makes “very uncomfortable reading” for the sport, but Mr Carr denied it was being “sat on”.

“We’re not sitting on it, the report isn’t completed, when it’s completed we’ll go public with it,” he said.

“It will be subject to the normal scrutiny.”

UK Sport funds elite athletes on the principle of “no compromise” that prioritises medal success, but the cycling case has raised questions about whether the system pays enough attention to athlete welfare.

Mr Carr said the report may inform UK Sport’s approach in future but did not expect it to lead to fundamental change.

He said: “I don’t think there’s anything inherently problematic within the system that’s going to cause us to throw the balls in the air.

“I think there will be some specifics for sports, some behaviour from time to time.

“It might define those red lines more clearly.

“Maybe we’ve got some lessons to learn but absolutely no, not a fundamental review.”

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