British Canoeing latest sport to suspend coach after complaint as athlete welfare scandal escalates

Ben Rumsby
The Telegraph
Canoeing is one of Great Britain's most successful sports - PA
Canoeing is one of Great Britain's most successful sports - PA

Another of Great Britain's most successful sports has been dragged into the athlete welfare scandal after British Canoeing confirmed it had suspended a coach.

The governing body announced it had begun an independent investigation following a formal complaint in December, four months after it completed its best ever Olympics.

Team GB won two gold medals and two silver in canoeing at Rio 2016 before ParalympicsGB claimed three gold and two bronze at the Paras, where they topped the medal table.

News of the investigation emerges less than a week after revelations of a parallel probe into allegations of bullying against a Paralympic coach in British Swimming.

That in turn followed the bullying and discrimination scandal that has engulfed British Cycling, which has been the subject of a year-long inquiry, and a recently-concluded examination of bullying claims in British Rowing.

<span>Jess Varnish has complained of bullying and sexism in cycling</span> <span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>
Jess Varnish has complained of bullying and sexism in cycling Credit: GETTY IMAGES

The investigations into four of the country’s best-funded sports has compounded fears over the culture of high-performance programmes within British sports, and whether medal success has come at the expense of athlete welfare.

A British Canoeing spokesperson said: “We can confirm that, in response to a formal complaint in December 2016, a member of our performance team has been suspended.

“As a result, a full and independent investigation was immediately initiated. British Canoeing will not be making any further comment until this process has been concluded.”

Confirmation an investigation is under way followed the latest attack on the country’s medal-winning formula by the chairman of UK Athletics.

Ed Warner claimed British sport was at crossroads and that it was time to end a 20-year-long chase for “marginal medals” in sports such as track cycling.

| UK Sport cuts

Speaking at the SportsPro Live conference in London, Warner said: “It feels to me there is a natural cycle in these things, like when Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United. Things comes to an end.

“It doesn’t mean Britain will never win medals at the Olympics or Paralympics again but we might have got to the point where the public is sated in its appetite for medals.

“Does it need many more or does it need something different from elite sport? It needs medals and something – and it is the ‘something’ that is missing at the moment.

“I would hate to get into a situation in which becoming an Olympian is no long celebrated in itself as an achievement (and) you have to be a gold medalist to be deemed to have value by somebody, whoever that somebody might be.

“I think the British public celebrates Olympism and Paralympism in itself. It’s possible there are too many people in the funding and governing body system who are now overlooking the value of making the team and being part of a collective success.”

Warner, who steps down later this year after a decade in charge at UKA, said UK Sport had a chance to review its strategy because its chairman, Rod Carr, is leaving next month and the situation at British Cycling has sparked a wider debate about athlete welfare and good governance.

Why funding matters | How more investment has led to more Olympic medals for Team GB's cyclists

There are also fears UK Sport is becoming a victim of its own success, with more sports winning more medals than ever before in Rio, and Team GB also becoming more competitive in winter sports.

This has placed enormous pressure on UK Sport’s budget and led to sports with medal potential, such as badminton and wheelchair rugby, losing their public funding for Tokyo 2020, a fate Warner described as “potentially catastrophic”.

He has championed both sports and hopes that whoever takes over at UK Sport will take “a more holistic view of what success looks like”, as well as closing the funding gap between Olympic and Paralympic sport.

“There is too much of a culture of medal winners and non-medal winners, which is unhealthy and doesn’t speak well for us as a sporting society,” he said.

“Post-London 2012, basketball was one of the big losers. This is a sport which is urban and played by many people who come from deprived backgrounds.

“We should do everything we can to get a British team back in the Olympics for the inspirational effect that simply appearing in the tournament would have for youngsters in that sport.

“We need a grown-up debate about the value of one extra marginal medal, out of the many Britain wins, versus the ability to fund an aspirant sport like basketball, which is hugely important internationally and could have enormous participation value.”

What to read next

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes