Although the report, commissioned in April 2016, is deeply critical, some said that it did not go far enough. Ken Matheson, a former British Cycling coach, described the final report as “a whitewash.”
An earlier draft of the report, leaked in March, was significantly more damning. It questioned whether British Cycling was fit to run the sport, found it culpable of “bullying” and said that the board had “sanitized” the findings of the internal investigation into accusations of sexism and bullying made by Jess Varnish, a cyclist who was dropped from the elite program before the Rio Games.
Varnish said Sutton told her to “go and have a baby.” Sutton was suspended and then resigned in April 2016. Only one of Varnish’s nine claims against Sutton was upheld by the British Cycling board. Varnish is threatening to take legal action against the organization.
Even before the report, British Cycling had been sullied by drug allegations concerning Team Sky, which competes in premier road events like the Tour de France. UK Anti-Doping is investigating a padded envelope flown to France to be given to the cyclist Bradley Wiggins in 2011 during the Critérium du Dauphiné. Team Sky’s doctor at the time, Richard Freeman, who now works for British Cycling, has said that he did not know what the package contained. There are no relevant medical records remaining.
Last December, Dave Brailsford, who was performance director for British Cycling and Team Sky at the time but has since left British Cycling, claimed that the bag contained Fluimucil, a decongestant.
“I’m told Fluimucil costs eight euros in France,” John Nicholson, a member of Parliament, said to Brailsford during a hearing. “Why was it flown all this way?”
Led by the two-time defending champion Chris Froome, Team Sky is expected to be a top team at this year’s Tour de France, which begins July 1.
The debasement of British Cycling comes as questions are increasingly being asked about the price of Britain’s Olympic success. Despite assertions that winning medals at the 2012 London Games and beyond would inspire new participants, overall rates of weekly sports participation in England have declined since 2012, according to official figures. The fall has been particularly great among disadvantaged socioeconomic groups and disabled people. One of the targets of the government’s legacy plan for 2012 was to increase participation among the disabled.
“Insufficient focus on grass-roots sports, as compared to Olympic sports, does impact on participation,” said Borja García, a lecturer in sport management and policy at Loughborough University.
During an era of government austerity, there have been sizable budget cuts to schools and local authorities. Olympic and Paralympic funding, though, has been largely immune; total funding for the Britain’s Summer Olympics teams has risen from 69 million pounds in the four years before the 2000 Sydney Games to £345 million (about $441 million) in the current cycle ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games.
While cycling will receive £26 million (about $33 million) from UK Sport over four years, five Olympic and Paralympic sports, including badminton, archery and fencing, have had their funding abolished.
Wheelchair rugby, whose UK Sport funding was reduced to zero after receiving £3 million every four years, must now raise at least £500,000 a year (about $639,000) through other means to participate in the Paralympics and other major events.
“The game in this country will collapse” said David Pond, chief executive of Britain Wheelchair Rugby. “It’s very disheartening. This is a real betrayal of the 2012 legacy.”
Such decisions suggested that authorities have “lost all sense of what this is about,” Pond said. He rued that players like Stuart Robinson, a Royal Air Force corporal who had both legs amputated after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, may no longer be able to compete at the Paralympic Games.
UK Sport has turned “a blind eye” to governance in sports delivering medals, Pond added. “Medals at all costs means that there’s been some seriously questionable practices.”
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