The developing story around the British Cycling’s Shane Sutton has seen the technical director quit, hours after being suspended – and 100 days before the beginning of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Yesterday British Cycling released a statement to confirm that Sutton had been suspended "pending an internal investigation into the allegations of discrimination that have been reported in the press." The national governing body is currently running an independent review into its performance programmes as a result of the claims too.
Within the last hour, British Cycling released a statement to confirm Shane Sutton has quit so that athletes can "begin their final preparations for Rio…free of distraction".
Athletes and pundits are welcoming the news (via Twitter):
Here’s the full statement from Sutton:
“Today starts the 100-day countdown to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is absolutely crucial that, as our athletes begin their final preparations for Rio, they are able to do so free of distraction.
“The developments over the past few days have clearly become a distraction. It is for this reason, and having spoken to friends and family, that I believe it is in the best interests of British Cycling for me to step down from my position as technical director.
“It is important that the review announced by British Cycling and UK Sport now takes place, and I will obviously co-operate fully with this. I have made clear that I reject the specific claims that have been made against me in recent days, and I look forward to taking a full part in the review process so I can respond to the allegations in detail.
“Cycling is my passion and I have always worked to get the very best out of professional athletes. I am proud of what British Cycling has achieved and I am excited by the potential of the team for Rio. They will always have my full support.”
British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake added: “I want to put on record my thanks to Shane for his work with British Cycling and the part he has played in our success. We have a lot to be proud of and, with the Olympics and Paralympics this summer, a lot to look forward to.
“I understand and respect Shane’s decision to stand down. His primary focus has always been the athletes, and this decision is something he has taken to allow them to focus on their preparation for Rio. Andy Harrison, programmes director at British Cycling, will be taking over with immediate effect and will manage the team in the build-up to Rio 2016.
“As we announced yesterday, we are now putting in place an independent review with UK Sport so that we can investigate the allegations that have been raised in recent days about the culture within the Great Britain Cycling Team. We continue to be committed to promoting equality of opportunity and providing a supportive environment within British Cycling.”
BACKGROUND: The allegations against Sutton and British Cycling are serious. The story gathered momentum when Jess Varnish criticised British Cycling and days later was told by the organising body that she had been dropped. Varnish went on to give an interview to the Daily Mail where she said Shane Sutton told her to "just move on and get on with having a baby" among other outbursts. More recently, Sutton was alleged to have used derogatory remarks against para-cyclists by Darren Kenny. Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke have got behind Varnish and criticised British Cycling, though some of GB’s female cyclists have issued broadly supportive comments, including Joanna Rowsell Shand and Laura Trott.
In a statement on her website, Varnish said: "I have been amazed by the response and support shown to me since the Daily Mail interview. I have been contacted by other riders both present and past, to say that they have experienced similar behaviour at British Cycling. I am aware that some people at British cycling are afraid to come forward due to the culture of fear that exists, as they don’t want to lose their jobs. I am not alone in my experience and I’m glad that a few feel more confident to speak up as a result of my interview." (Read the rest of Varnish’s statement here).