But even she could not disguise the fact that cycling has been drowning in hubris and complacency since before the … – Daily Mail
There was such haste to remove all hint of a bullying culture from the pages of the second and final draft of the independent review into the culture at British Cycling that they couldn’t even spell the word correctly.
We were told about ‘bulling’ instead — and even that error was a misuse of someone else’s investigation into the state of the sport.
The diluted report bore no resemblance to the first draft, revealed by Sportsmail in March. Gone was the description of ‘fear and bullying from leadership figures’ towards ’emotional’ cyclists who had become the medal machine’s collateral damage. The cleaned-up version reported only ‘fear’.
UK Sport have released their much-delayed final report into the culture of British Cycling
The long-awaited independent review was watered down and exactly what cycling didn’t need
It was precisely what elite British sport did not need, in a week of new concerns about athlete welfare, in the sports of swimming and toboganning.
‘It’s not a crisis. Ours is a winning mentality, not a win-at-all-costs mentality,’ declared UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl, when it was put to her that the British people are falling out of love with sports in which competitors are being damaged for the sake of some Olympics cheer every four years.
But even she could not disguise the fact that cycling has been drowning in hubris and complacency since before the 2012 London Olympics.
Also published on Wednesday, to far less fanfare, was the 15-page report that Peter King produced after the London Games, when Shane Sutton’s return to a senior role at British Cycling had sent a shock of electricity through the sport.
King coolly related in his own findings how several athletes had anonymously reported to him ‘a culture of fear, intimidation and bullying’. He reported the disturbing swagger the elite sport was beginning to display, even then. ‘Athletes, coaches and support staff behaving in a manner which could be interpreted as arrogance during competitions,’ King wrote.
UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl (left), British Rowing chairman Annamarie Phelps CBE (centre) and British Cycling chairman Jonathan Browning release the report at a briefing
His report also suggests that ‘luck’ played the biggest part in our cyclists’ much vaunted Olympic success in London. Here, in black and white, was the document which could and should have alerted the British Cycling triumvirate of Sir Dave Brailsford, Ian Drake and Brian Cookson that a malign culture was beginning to take hold, long before Jess Varnish made the same complaints.
Scandalously, chief executive Drake saw to it that only a fragment of the final report was made public. He distributed it only to Brailsford and Cookson and played Nicholl for a fool. According to her own testimony on Wednesday, Drake sent her a long email which alluded to the report but hid the sting of it.
And scandalously, Nicholl did not ask too many questions. ‘There was nothing [serious] in the summary from the CEO,’ Nicholl said on Wednesday, claiming she had been deliberately ‘unsighted’.
Nicholl didn’t ask too many questions about the report, a decision which damages her
Her failure to be ‘more inquisitive’, as she put it, damages her. And the failure of Brailsford, Drake and Cookson to seize on the report, rather than obscure it, is a savage indictment of all three men. It hasn’t stopped UK Sport financing Cookson’s current bid for re-election to the presidency of cycling’s world body, the UCI.
Nicholl’s air of contrition included a battery of management-speak about how the duty of care will be paid to athletes from now on. She spoke of a ‘cultural health check being created by an independent panel of experts’, an ‘athletes’ annual insight survey’ and an ‘athlete alumni network’.
Yet when it came down to the question of why the British Cycling board had ignored a grievance officer’s conclusion that Varnish had been a victim of more than one instance of bullying and discrimination, there was yet more fog from the governing body.
Jess Varnish made nine grievances against Shane Sutton, but only one of them was upheld
One of its board members, the current chairman Jonathan Browning, was asked by what majority had the board reached the hugely significant conclusion to overrule the grievance officer. ‘It was a collective decision,’ Browning said. How many had voted against Varnish’s claims? ‘We came collectively to that decision.’ Had there been a vote at all? ‘I’ve said all I’m going to say.’
The independent review’s draft report didn’t mince its words on this issue, in March. ‘Considerably more [complaints] were found proven by the grievance officer,’ it concluded. ‘Not only did the board not accept the findings of its grievance officer, it reversed them.’
That observation, like so much else, did not make the cut for the authorised version.