Comment: British Cycling need speedy resolution to Shane Sutton saga
Techical director suspended pending internal investigation with just 100 days to go until the start of the Olympic Games
by Colin Henrys
With exactly 100 days to go until the start of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, British Cycling need a speedy resolution to the Shane Sutton saga and the storm developing over Manchester.
British Cycling's technical director is currently suspended pending an internal investigation into allegations of discrimination by the Australian, who took over from Dave Brailsford as the head of the track programme in 2014.
And the weight of those allegations from both track sprinter Jessica Varnish and para-cyclist Darren Kenny, mean British Cycling are quite right to have taken action in first announcing an inquiry on the back of Varnish's statement, before suspending Sutton as Kenny's comments came to light.
Sutton is alleged to have told Varnish, whose Olympic contract was not renewed following her fifth place finish in the sprint at the World Championships, to ‘go and have a baby’, while Kenny and an unnamed ‘former British Cycling staff member’ claim Sutton referred to para-cyclists as ‘gimps’ and ‘wobblies’.
Let’s be straight, there is absolutely no place for sexism or discrimination in sport at any level, and the allegations levied against Sutton are serious.
But whatever the outcome of British Cycling's inquiry, the process need to be thorough, fair and, in the interest of Team GB's hopes in Rio, swift.
While Sutton has had a number of allegations levied against him, with former riders Victoria Pendleton, Nicole Cooke and Wendy Houvenaghel all coming out in support of Varnish, double Olympic champion Laura Trott is one of the current riders to come out in support of the 58-year-old, telling PA Sport she has "only ever had a wholly positive and healthy working relationship with Shane Sutton", while Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift are reported to have echoed those sentiments. Sutton has been a key part of British Cycling's success since joining as a coach in 2002, but he is a divisive figure and this could be a story which splits British Cycling HQ.
To date, the row has been played out in the media, but British Cycling now has chance to give all parties the chance to have their say, in confidence, before delivering a verdict.
Of course, decisions also have to be made on the track with the countdown to Rio well and truly on, with Varnish’s omission from the women’s sprint squad just one of them.
Elsewhere, up to eight riders are competing for five spots in the men’s endurance team, with Mark Cavendish’s bid to ride the omnium dominating the headlines.
The men’s sprint squad and women’s endurance squads also need finalising, with expectations as high as ever after success on home soil at London 2012, which brought gold medals in seven of the ten track events.
Having also topped the medal table at the UCI World Track Championships in London earlier this year, the British squad seemed to be on track, albeit with work to be done in a few key areas, like the women's team pursuit squad, who left the capital with bronze, and the men's team pursuit quartet, which lost to Australia in the final.
Any setback or distraction is magnified in an Olympic year, not least when an organisation's figurehead is embroiled, and so, whatever decision British Cycling arrive at regarding Shane Sutton, it needs to come sooner rather than later for the sake of everyone involved.