British Cycling must pick up the pieces after Shane Sutton's departure

Shane Sutton on Wednesday resigned as technical director to leave British Cycling in turmoil as the Rio Olympics approach.

The 58-year-old Australian quit after another day of allegations over his conduct and on the day which marked 100 days to go till Rio.

“I believe it is in the best interests of British Cycling for me to step down from my position as technical director,” Sutton said in a statement.

Sutton was suspended by British Cycling on Tuesday after it was claimed he called Paralympic cyclists “gimps”, shortly after announcing an independent review into claims of sexism made by Jess Varnish.

The 25-year-old alleges Sutton told her to “go and have a baby” when dropping her from the Olympic team.

Sutton denies the allegations and said he welcomed the opportunity to address them in the review.

He declined to address further claims of using racist language towards a Malaysian cyclist.

Sutton said in the statement: “It is absolutely crucial that, as our athletes begin their final preparations for Rio, they are able to do so free of distraction.

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

British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake said: “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.”

Programmes director Andy Harrison has taken over with immediate effect, Drake added.

Asked if his organisation was in crisis by the BBC, Drake added: “Not at all. We need to learn from the experiences and what people are saying.”

Sutton continues to refute the allegations and will take part in the independent review.

“I will obviously co-operate fully with this,” he added.

“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.”

Sutton succeeded Sir Dave Brailsford as British Cycling chief in 2014.

Sutton, as head coach, was then-performance director Brailsford’s key lieutenant in the British team which won eight gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Britain won seven out of 10 track events at each Games.

Sutton is a blunt character, but there are many riders who will have had only positive experiences of his coaching and who enjoyed good working relationships with him.

Sutton rebuked his charges after the 2015 Track World Championships near Paris, but optimism returned last month when Britain topped the medal table at the 2016 event in London.

His departure could have implications for squad morale and selection, with Mark Cavendish’s participation in Rio no longer as certain as it seemed.

Sutton added he was “excited by the potential of the team for Rio”.

Team Sky principal Brailsford paid tribute to Sutton, describing his contribution to the sport in Britain as “immense”.

“It’s understandable that if he feels this has become a distraction to (the riders’ preparation for Rio he has put the interests of the team first and decided to stand down,” Brailsford said.

There were further claims of discrimination made against Sutton on Wednesday.

Malaysian cyclist Josiah Ng alleged Sutton called him ‘Boatie’, which could be interpreted as a reference to people sailing from Asia to seek asylum in Australia.

Ng does not believe the comments were intended as racist, more affectionate, but founded on ignorance.

Ng, the 2010 Commonwealth Games Keirin champion, told Press Association Sport: “I’d say ‘hey Sutto’ and he’d say ‘hey Boatie, how you going?’. Just like that. Never in a negative context, but I don’t know if he was aware it was derogatory.

“I don’t think he’s racist. His actions are racist, but I personally don’t think he’s racist.”

News Now - Sport News