Sexism at British Cycling

Today I was pondering if I should write a blog post, logging on to Twitter I saw David ‘Sir Dave’ Brailsford had responded about the charges of sexism at British Cycling. In much the same way as you have to look at a car crash, I buckled in and clicked that link.So Sir Dave of Brailsford tells us that British Cycling was “not sexist, but definitely ‘medallist’”. Which on the face of it was a lovely little sound bite, again showing his love for the spin doctrine of  Alistair Campbell and possibly in today’s society an alt-fact. I did, however, uncover some footage from BC when the whole sexism thing broke.

Let us look at the London Olympics of 2012, Nicole Cooke was our defending champion and on home ground. As part of the run-up, BC and the UCI organized LeCog, a test event for the route and organization of the Olympics Road Race. Great surely we will be able to have our women’s team out testing the route so as to know what to expect, well no. The event was only organized for the men but Cooke was told she could ride in the car.

Now we can blame the UCI and say that the did not allow BC to have a women’s race but the UCI only dictated that there had to be a male race, so why did BC not show any initiative and organize a woman’s race for the same day. The roads were going to be shut, the police and marshalls would be employed, there would be barriers out, so why not prove they were about medals and not sexism? This does not tie in with Sir Dave’s, “That is why we pushed for equal numbers of male and female events so our elite female athletes could have the same maximum chance of success as their male counterparts.” Actions always speak louder than words.

BC also commissioned special bikes from McLaren for the men in the road race team. These bikes were designed to be the best and customed fitted to each rider and not just the people who would be racing but also for the reserves. Where then do we see BC trying to help the at the time Road Race Olympic Champion? The British men’s Road Race team only managed DNFs in that race as opposed to the women taking the gold medal. That is correct, this medallist society forgot to look at who actually had the gold medal, it is an easy mistake to make.

We could also look at the  2011 World’s and say they based their decision on the fact Mark Cavendish won the Worlds. However, Nicole Cooke was only fourth and as such how could you discount her. We also now know that in 2011, the women’s coach or manager or whatever he decides his title is today was off working for Team Sky delivering dubious packages and a month of motor pacing with the renowned female cyclist, Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Imagine now if the women’s team had actually had a month of him working with them as a team, that 4th could easily have been a gold, silver or bronze. Again the medallist society does not seem to be figuring out well here. Sir Dave of Brailsford again,“I was, and still am, an advocate of UK Sport’s ‘no compromise’ ethos. It is a ruthless approach and one that is completely meritocratic. Focus on the podium. Leave no stone unturned.” Leave no stone unturned, except running training camps.

We can also look at what happened after Nicole Cooke won the Olympics, she went to the Worlds immediately after. She had asked BC for a skinsuit and this was refused, so she took her old skinsuit, which Sir Dave of Brailsford banned her from racing in as it did not feature a Sky logo. So on the night before the race, Emma Pooley had to cut a Sky logo off a jersey and stitch it on to Cooke’s skinsuit.Cooke won the championships and again this makes a mockery of Brailsford’s medallist society.

We can then also start to add in Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton, both athletes who can hardly be said to be lacking in the medal front. Pendleton is quoted as saying, “My opinion wasn’t worth as much (as the men). I used to sit quietly in meetings and not say anything as I knew I would be disregarded”. She only won a couple of Olympic gold medals, so they might just be the wrong medals for Brailsford.

The Jess Varnish situation is almost like a comedy but sadly someone forgot to add in good jokes, like Mrs Brown’s Boys. You speak out about selection issues and 9 days later your funding gets cut. Whichever way you try and spin that, it will be as suspicious as using a women’s team manager/coach/whatever to drive hundreds of miles to collect a mystery package, drive hundreds of miles back and then take a 1000 mile plane journey with said package and no idea what is in it.

British Cycling then tries to cover up Varnish’s tales of sexism in an internal report and all they seem to do is upset both sides of the argument, which admittedly is a talent.

We could also ask if BC were trying to produce medals at the World’s and Olympics, why then did they start by creating a professional male team, as we had women’s road World champions and Olympic champions? It is worth remembering that Cavendish was world champion the year after Team Sky was created and then joined Team Sky the year after that.

Looking at Brailsford’s words, “That is why we pushed for equal numbers of male and female events so our elite female athletes could have the same maximum chance of success as their male counterparts” and the BC was “not sexist, but definitely ‘medallist’”, we now then have to ask why was there not a male and female team formed at the same time?

Sir Dave of Brailsford, he of the cycling alt-fact.

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