LONDON (Reuters) - British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton resigned on Wednesday after being engulfed in a row about sexist and discriminatory remarks he is alleged to have made.
Australian Sutton was suspended on Tuesday pending the results of two internal investigations into reports that he made derogatory comments about rider Jess Varnish and, separately, para-cyclists, who British media alleged he had called “gimps” and “wobblies”.
In a statement issued by the governing body on Wednesday, Sutton, who has denied all the allegations, said his departure was in the best interests of British Cycling.
“The developments over the past few days have clearly become a distraction. It is for this reason that I believe it is in the best interests of British Cycling for me to step down from my position as technical director,” he said.
“It is important that the review announced by British Cycling and UK Sport now takes place, and I will obviously co-operate fully with this.”
The claims have left the sport in turmoil 100 days before it is expected to put up a strong showing at the Olympic Games in Rio.
Britain won eight Olympic cycling gold medals at both Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
British cycling chief executive Ian Drake said the sport was not in crisis.
“Not at all,” he told the BBC. “We have to get the independent review right and there is no point having a system where people feel they are not in a supportive environment and not potentially being given a duty of care,” Drake added.
The claims against Sutton first surfaced in a newspaper interview by Varnish in the Daily Mail. The former European sprint champion said Sutton told her to move on and have a baby and that her “ass” was too big.
British Olympic cyclists Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke backed her claims of sexism in British Cycling.
A new row blew up on Wednesday over Paralympians when Darren Kenny, one of Britain’s most decorated para-cyclists, told the Daily Mail: “The term used to refer to us was generally ‘gimps’ with another word in front of that.
“I don’t think we were considered to be elite athletes in all honesty by certain people and since I’ve left I’ve not seen or heard of any change towards equality.”
The 58-year-old Sutton joined British cycling in 2002 and played a major part in the Olympic success of Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins before taking over the top job from Dave Brailsford.
“I understand and respect Shane’s decision to stand down. His primary focus has always been the athletes, and this decision is something he has taken to allow them to focus on their preparation for Rio,” Drake said.
Programmes director Andy Harrison will take over Sutton’s role.
Brailsford described Sutton’s contribution to British cycling as immense.
“His sole focus has always been the athletes, and so it’s understandable that if he feels this has become a distraction to their preparation for Rio he has put the interests of the team first and decided to stand down,” he said.
Reporting by Neil Robinson and Ed Osmond, Editing by Ken Ferris/Toby Davis