Shane Sutton may have resigned from British Cycling after allegations discrimination against female and paracycling competitors, but one of the country’s best-ever women riders, Emma Pooley, has said that others from British Cycling should also face questions.
“I think the issue is much bigger than him,” she told the Guardian. “If you’re going to ask questions of Shane Sutton you have to ask them of Dave Brailsford too. I wish more questions had been asked of him before he was awarded his knighthood and moved to Sky.
“It was when he was running British Cycling that there was no women’s Team Sky.”
The current controversy began when the sprinter Jess Varnish was dropped by British Cycling and spoke out against what she said was unfair treatment of her by Sutton.
She told the Daily Mail that Sutton had told her she was “too old” and that she should “move on and get a baby.” She further elaborated on those claims in a statement released on Tuesday.
Claims that Sutton had been derogatory towards paracycling competitors emerged on the same day. The Australian said on Wednesday that he was standing down from his role but believed he would be exonerated in the review announced by British Cycling and UK Sport.
Pooley’s comments follow similar questions asked by former top British competitors Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke. They have said that there is a problem within British Cycling that needs to be addressed.
Pooley said that Brailsford’s mission with Team Sky was lob-sided. “Why didn’t anyone ask how it could be that a publicly funded body like British Cycling joined together with a privately funded team – Sky – on a mission to get a British winner of the Tour de France within five years? Why wasn’t there a similar plan for the women?
“The women’s Giro d’Italia was the most important race for women but where was the funding for that? I came second twice and no one from British Cycling offered to put together a team to help me win it.”
She did add that the majority of staff at British cycling were doing things in the right way. “They don’t care if you’re black, white, green, purple, male or female. They don’t care what genitals you have: they just want to help you win medals.”
Meanwhile BMX rider Tre Whyte has given his support to Varnish. “I’ve met Jess lots of times and she just says it how it is. She’s not a liar.”
He added that some riders feared Sutton. “I’m not scared of him but I know some people who are intimidated by the way he comes across,” he said.
Whyte was recently refused permission to compete in the forthcoming World Championships in Medellin, Colombia. He said that it has affected how he feels, but also that the general atmosphere at British Cycling was not a good one at present.
“I feel, walking into the building, I don’t feel that proud to pull on the GB jersey any more,” he. “When I walk into the building I don’t feel that supported by senior management.
“My coaches around me are really supportive and they know I want to train and get faster and are doing as much as I need – the nutritionist and the doctors and the gym coaches and physiotherapist. But not when it comes to senior management, whose vote actually counts and whose support I need the most.”
Whyte was also speaking to the Guardian. According to the paper, three more current Team GB riders have said that they are glad that Sutton has left his role, although they asked not to be identified.
However Sutton has received some support from Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas.
“With regards to recent events I’d like to say that there is absolutely no place for inequality in sport, and the recent accusations made against British cycling need to be looked at and treated seriously,” he said in a statement.
“However, I would like to talk about my personal experience and say that Shane is one of the main reasons I am where I am today. He has always wanted the best for British riders, and gone the extra mile for us.
“He’s done more than most for British Cycling. The inequity issues won’t finish with Shane’s resignation/investigation, there is a problem with inequality in cycling as a whole that needs to be addressed.”