GB cycling coach steps down after calling para team 'gimps'

Shane Sutton. Photo /Getty
Shane Sutton. Photo /Getty

Amid allegations of discrimination and bullying, experienced Australian cycling coach Shane Sutton stepped down from his role with British Cycling barely three months out from the Rio Olympics.

Sutton, who joined the British Cycling set up in 2002, has been credited with playing a major role in developing the sport in the UK as head coach before taking over as technical director in 2014.

He's been lauded for helping build a team which claimed eight gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and again in London 2012, and was named the 2008 coach of the year in the UK Coaching Awards before being awarded an OBE in 2010.

Great Britain, who topped the track cycling world championships medal table with five gold in London earlier this year, are again expected to be Australia's greatest competition in Rio in August.

However, Sutton stepped down on Wednesday as claims of harassment levelled at him by cyclist Jess Varnish and para-cyclist Darren Kenny became too big an issue to ignore.

Varnish alleged Sutton told her she had "a fat arse" and to "move on and have a baby" after she failed to qualify for this year's Olympics, while Kenny said the Australian referred to members of the disability team as "gimps".

Malaysian cyclist Josiah Ng added to the controversy by claiming Sutton called him "Boatie", though the now-retired Commonwealth Games gold medalist believes the term was intended to be affectionate rather than racist.

"(It was) never in a negative context, but I don't know if he was aware it was derogatory," Ng told PA.

"It was always said in jest. That's who he is. He's old school that way.

"I don't think he's racist."

Sutton denies these allegations and, 100 days out from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, says he stepped down to avoid a storm crushing Britain's potential cycling gold rush.

"It is absolutely crucial that, as our athletes begin their final preparations for Rio, they are able to do so free of distraction," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The developments over the past few days have clearly become a distraction.

"It is for this reason, and having spoken to friends and family, that I believe it is in the best interests of British Cycling for me to step down from my position as technical director."

Sutton welcomed the review into the allegations of sexism and discrimination which British Cycling announced on Tuesday.

"I have made clear that I reject the specific claims that have been made against me in recent days, and I look forward to taking a full part in the review process so I can respond to the allegations in detail," he said.

Despite the acrimonious exit, Sutton's contribution was acknowledged by British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake.

AAP jb/imc

-AAP

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