(Reuters) - Annamarie Phelps, Britain’s rowing chief, will head the independent review into the “extremely disturbing” claims of discrimination and bullying that have rocked British cycling, it was announced on Friday.
Phelps, chairman of British Rowing, will now appoint a review panel that will be asked to examine whether there are “fundamental behavioral issues” at the heart of British cycling’s once-unrivalled sports program.
The news of the 1996 Olympic oarswoman’s key role in the review, which has been co-commissioned by British Cycling and UK Sport, comes after a traumatic week for the sport in Britain during which its technical director Shane Sutton quit amid allegations of sexism, discrimination and bullying.
A joint statement from UK Sport and British Cycling said the review would start “imminently” and end after the Olympic and Paralympic Games “to minimize the disruption to British Cycling’s final preparations for Rio, while allowing athletes and support personnel to play a full role in the review.”
The scope of the review, said the statement, “must include, but is not limited to, all forms of discrimination and bullying” but would not include British cycling’s investigation into Sutton’s alleged misconduct.
Yet one specific question to be covered would be “Are there fundamental behavioral issues within the climate and culture of British Cycling World Class Programme?”
Australian Sutton resigned on Wednesday following claims that he used derogatory words to describe para-cyclists. British rider Jess Varnish also accused him of making sexist comments and said he told her to “go and have a baby”.
Sutton said he rejected the specific claims but added that he had stepped down because the they had become a distraction to the team in the build-up to the Games.
Bob Howden, British Cycling President, welcomed the review, saying: ”The allegations which have been made over the last few days about the culture of the Great Britain Cycling Team are extremely disturbing and British Cycling will now work with the independent review to establish the full facts.
”We treat these allegations very seriously, they will be fully investigated and we will not shy away from taking whatever action is necessary.
“Whatever the outcome of this review, I‘m sure that there will be valuable lessons to learn and things that we can improve on as we strive to further build on the many positive achievements of the past two decades.”
Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Pritha Sarkar