British Cycling tied itself up in even more knots yesterday with the news that they have cleared Shane Sutton of eight out of the nine charges against him that resulted in him resigning as Technical Director of British Cycling back in April of this year. Only one of the complaints brought against him by Jess Varnish was upheld - that he used the term ‘bitches’, although we do not know the context within which it was used.
Both parties, Shane Sutton and Jess Varnish, were left unsatisfied and angry. While Sutton had faced a damning statement against him in October declaring that he had used “inappropriate and discriminatory language” after their internal investigation, that judgement appears to have been contradicted with the leak to the BBC that nearly all of Varnish’s complaints were “not upheld.” We are now left wondering how it came to its original conclusion.
As a result of the allegations Sutton resigned from his job and has suffered damage to his reputation, although he has been recently linked with a move to Cycling Australia as a new high performance director.
Varnish meanwhile has seen the bulk of her complaints dismissed and she has no right to appeal. The report has not been published and the two main parties, as well as the wider public, are left in the dark about what testimony the panel heard, how it was judged and why it reached the decisions it released back in October.
Sean Ingle, writing in the Guardian yesterday suggests that, “These things need context and precision, not a misleading press release followed by a vow of silence. There is a worrying pattern here: a lack of openness and transparency in British Cycling.”
Further doubts about the way British Cycling operates have been raised by the revelation that one of its staff delivered a mystery package to Bradley Wiggins after his 2011 Dauphiné victory. And questions remain about the possible misuse of therapeutic medical exemptions (TUEs) by medical staff employed by British Cycling and Team Sky.
Hopefully we will get some clarity on these matters when the culture, media and sport committee question Bob Howden, president and chair of British Cycling, Dr George Gilbert, chair of the British Cycling ethics commission, Shane Sutton and Sir Dave Brailsford on 19th December.