British Cycling insists change sought by Collins is under way

British Cycling insists change sought by Collins is under way
By PA Sport

16/06/2017 at 07:50Updated 16/06/2017 at 09:02

British Cycling has insisted reform is under way and that MP Damian Collins' criticism of the organisation is "ill-informed."

Collins on Thursday called for British Cycling chairman Jonathan Browning and UCI president Brian Cookson to leave their respective roles following a damning independent review into the Great Britain cycling team.

The investigation, led by British Rowing chair Annamarie Phelps whose findings were published on Wednesday, was critical of British Cycling, former technical director Shane Sutton and funding agency UK Sport.

Cookson was British Cycling president until September 2013, when he was elected head of the UCI. He is standing for re-election in September. Browning was also on the British Cycling board during the period investigated.

British Cycling responded via a statement on Thursday evening which read: "Damian Collins MP's criticisms of British Cycling are ill-informed and do not take account of the changes under way at the organisation.

"In accordance with the requirements of the new Code for Sports Governance, and as we announced last week, a number of board members will be stepping down following the EGM in July when the National Council votes to approve board changes. Seventy per cent of the board will therefore change as a result.

"Change is very much in train at British Cycling. Damian Collins would be very welcome to come to the National Cycling Centre, whenever he would like, to understand and witness the transformation that is under way."

Meanwhile, Sutton told the independent panel investigating claims of bullying and discrimination that he argued to keep Jess Varnish on the Great Britain programme against her coaches' advice.

Varnish was dropped in April 2016, a decision attributed to performance data showing the track sprinter was no longer world-class but which came shortly after Varnish had criticised her coaches for inconsistent selections in the women's team sprint event which left her just short of qualifying for the Rio Olympics.

The shock of her exit, and Sutton's blunt comments about her no longer being worth funding, led her to tell the Daily Mail the Australian had used sexist language towards her and was responsible for the team's "culture of fear".

It was those allegations, coupled with claims of a similar nature from three other former riders, that led to an independent investigation into the "climate and culture" of British Cycling and an internal inquiry into Varnish's complaint against Sutton, who was suspended and promptly resigned.

The independent panel's report into the saga was highly critical of British Cycling and Sutton - but not as critical as an earlier draft from February, which was leaked to the Daily Mail in March.

Several allegations were removed from the draft, cutting its length by seven pages, and many of the sections about Sutton were more nuanced. This was a result of Sutton's response to the draft in a process known as Maxwellisation, which gives those criticised in reports the right to reply.

Press Association Sport reported it had seen extracts of Sutton's response, in which he states that he "had reservations" about Varnish's removal from the team until he saw the performance data and denied that equipment was distributed on the basis of favouritism.

Varnish's lawyer Tom Barnard told Press Association Sport his client was "disappointed" by the report, particularly as she was not given the same opportunity to respond to criticism as Sutton and others, and was considering her legal options.