Victoria Pendleton says earlier Shane Sutton departure could have seen her stay

Victoria Pendleton has indicated she might have competed at Rio 2016 had Shane Sutton left his post earlier

Victoria Pendleton has indicated she may have sought to prolong her track cycling career at the Rio Olympics had Shane Sutton departed his position in the wake of London 2012.

Pendleton insisted she had no choice but to retire from the sport which made her one of Britain's most successful female Olympians with two golds and one silver medal, such was the extent to which her relationship with Sutton had deteriorated.

Pendleton, who has gone on to become a successful national hunt jockey, said: "It (Sutton staying) played a big part - I couldn't stay working there.

"If four years ago they had made the changes they have made now, I would have been a lot happier and probably would have performed better.

"It was never going to happen at an earlier stage, unfortunately, and when you're in the team, you keep your head down and you do what you're told because you want to be part of it.

"You make decisions based on the evidence and options you have at the time and that's what I did. It would be na?ve to think it wasn't ever going to come out."

Sutton stepped down as British Cycling performance director after being suspended in the wake of accusations of sexism levelled against him by Pendleton's friend and former team-mate Jess Varnish. Sutton has denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, Pendleton has criticised the timing of the subsequent independent review into British Cycling, which will be conducted by a three-person panel including former England rugby union coach Stuart Lancaster.

Pendleton, who has offered her own opinions to the panel, said she was disappointed its results would be established and made public until after the Rio Paralympic Games this summer.

She said: "Things could have been done sooner, especially in an Olympic cycle.

"I appreciate that people maybe haven't got the time, but it's not really something you want to leave to continue the way it is. Changes should be made, and people should be able to move on in my opinion."

Recriminations surrounding Varnish's removal from the squad and Sutton's sudden exit have marred the GB cycling team's build-up to the Games, with Varnish's partner, former BMX world champion Liam Phillips, among those to heavily criticise the culture within the organisation.

But Pendleton said she did not believe the controversy would adversely affect the team's chances of achieving a relatively successful medal haul in Rio.

Pendleton added: "I think there is a small minority of individuals caught in a little bit of a pickle but on the whole there is a massive team of people supporting the athletes.

"When I was an athlete I was dealing regularly with 13 different individuals in order to create my performance, so taking one person out of the mix is not necessarily going to affect the performance as a whole.

"They are very professional, experienced athletes going to the Olympics and most have experience of previous Games. I don't think it will be an issue at all - these are not the kind of people who will be easily shaken.

"The team is still very strong and the individuals on the Olympic team will be bringing back medals without a doubt. I'm not a gambling woman but if I was, I'd say (British) cycling is as strong as ever."

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