Shane Sutton is considering whether to apply to coach the national side in his native Australia after being found guilty of sexist behaviour, but he has not yet given up hope of returning to British Cycling.
The 59-year-old resigned as British Cycling’s technical director 100 days before the Rio Olympics after the track sprinter Jess Varnish claimed he told her she was fat and should “go and have a baby” and following allegations he referred to the Paralympic squad as “gimps and wobblies”.
Sutton, a coach at the organisation for 16 years during its most golden period, was last week found to have used “inappropriate and discriminatory language” towards Varnish, in effect ending his hopes of a return to the National Cycling Centre in Manchester.
He said on Thursday night he would appeal against the decision of the internal investigation and that he could not rule out a comeback within British Cycling. At an event in London organised by Rouleur magazine, Sutton said: “Steve McClaren just went back to Derby [17 months after being sacked as manager]. Never say never. It’s sport. And who’s to say you won’t see Big Sam back at Sunderland if David Moyes decides to retire?”
He added that he had been discussing his future with Dave Brailsford, the former British Cycling performance director and current boss of Team Sky, but he stressed he had not been asked back to British Cycling: “I’m looking at other avenues. I’ve gone away, recharged the batteries and I just feel like the palate is starting to get wet again and I’m ready to come back.”
He said he had spoken to other nations and then made a joke about hopping, kangaroo-like, off the stage. His brother, Gary, is a coach for Cycling Australia, which is currently advertising for a high performance director to lead its elite teams, who returned from Rio with two medals out of a possible 54.
“Course I would like to talk to Australia,” he said, “but it’s going to take time. I know they’ve advertised the job, whether I apply, I’m not 100% convinced on that; that’s something I’ve got to talk to my family about, it’s a big ask.”
Sutton has six children as well as grandchildren and said his eldest daughter did not want him to move to the other side of the world away from the family. Vowing to clear his name, Sutton said of Varnish’s allegations: “I can look everybody in the eye and state for the record, I did not say she had a fat arse or ‘go away and have a baby’ and I will maintain that until my dying day. And there is no supporting evidence to back that up from her point.”
It had come as a shock that Varnish’s claims were upheld, he said: “It hit me a little bit [from] left field, that one. I suppose being around all them athletes and being used to winning so often it was a bit of a kick in the guts to lose because I pretty much based everything in my defence on evidence, so it was a bit of a surprise. But at the end of the day I’m going to live to fight another day. I’m going to appeal, I’m just waiting for the supporting evidence to come back from my lawyer and we’re going to take it from there.”
He said he had developed into a good coach and had learnt to control his temper with the help of British Cycling’s former psychiatrist, Steve Peters.
Asked which were his most memorable moments working for British Cycling, Sutton singled out Chris Hoy’s final keirin title at the London Olympics and Victoria Pendleton’s first gold medal in Beijing – perhaps surprisingly, given Pendleton supported Varnish’s sexism claim, saying Sutton contributed to a corrosive culture at British Cycling that forced her out of the sport.