Britain's medal machine scrambling to repair damage

Thu Apr 28, 2016 9:12am EDT
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - British Cycling was rummaging around for the puncture repair kit on Thursday after technical director Shane Sutton's resignation left the track powerhouse deflating like a shredded inner tube on the road to Rio.

Less than 100 days before the start of the Olympic Games, the team that enjoyed medal bonanzas in Beijing and London is reeling from Wednesday's departure of Sutton, a key cog in Britain's rise to cycling superpower, over allegations of discrimination, sexism and bullying.

Straight-talking Australian Sutton, who became a father figure to Britain's first Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, had been suspended earlier in the week after British Cycling announced an independent review of its performance programs in the wake of mounting disquiet over the 58-year-old's leadership.

Jess Varnish, the rider who sparked the current meltdown when she claimed Sutton told her "to go and have a baby" after being dropped from the squad, said at the heart of British Cycling's slick exterior was a "culture of fear".

Other have come out in support of the 25-year-old, including Olympic champions Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke.

"I know exactly how miserable they made me," former sprint queen Pendleton, told British media this week.

Paralympic cyclist Darren Kenny said Sutton, 58, described para-cyclists as "gimps" and "wobblies" -- terms often used in good humor by Paralympic athletes amongst themselves.

Others within the team, including Rio road race medal hope Geraint Thomas have leapt to Sutton's defense while the likes of Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, who have both returned to the track for one final tilt at Olympic glory, remain fiercely loyal to the coach who helped transform their careers.   Continued...