British Cycling performance director Stephen Park says he will not stop riders from consulting Shane Sutton

Tom Cary
Stephen Park, British Cycling's new performance director, at the Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong on Wednesday - REX FEATURES

Stephen Park, British Cycling's new performance director, says he will not prevent his riders from using Shane Sutton as a coach if they wish to continue do so, and provided the Australian is willing to help out. Park said he would likely turn to him for advice as well, arguing it would be "silly for me not to have some level of engagement with him" given his "incredible track record" as a coach.

Many of the Team GB riders and coaches at last year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro apparently continued to consult Sutton over their training programmes even after he resigned as technical director following allegations of bullying and sexism.

A leaked draft of the independent review into British Cycling's culture described Sutton's departure as "a sham" in some respects as he was actually still being paid by cycling's national governing body, allegedly "at a level of salary which was higher than had he remained".

While the draft report flagged up Sutton's abrasive, "old school" style it did acknowledge his undoubted brilliance as a coach. It is this that Park – speaking on the first day of the Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong says he would be foolish not to tap into.

A number of riders are understood to have consulted Shane Sutton despite the former technical director stepping down following allegations of bullying and sexism  Credit: Action Images

"I'm not specifying how they should or shouldn't run their individual programmes at this stage," he replied when asked whether he would allow his riders to continue to consult Sutton. "Shane is clearly well respected for his coaching abilities and he's got an incredible track record. So, it would be silly for me not to have some level of engagement with him, if that's possible and he's willing to do that.

"Whether other cyclists do or don't, I suppose they'll work with their individual coaches. Nobody's saying that anybody should or shouldn't speak to any individual."

Asked whether the final version of the independent report might change that stance, Park added: "I suppose anything's possible. And I suspect that because of some of the issues raised there will be certain riders who would choose not to do that. That's fine too. Nobody's suggesting they should do one or the other.

Before joining British Cycling, Park was the Royal Yachting Association's Olympic manager Credit: Getty Images

"Shane doesn't work for British Cycling at the moment. But equally nobody's sending any messages to riders or staff saying they shouldn't communicate with him.

"We've got other great coaches. The reality is time does move on in every sport. So for a lot of riders that might well be the case. And for riders that have worked with any individual over an extended period of time, they'll probably go back and refer back to them.

Park, who has been the Royal Yachting Association's Olympic manager for the last 15 years, added: "I fully expect there will be sailors on the phone or sending me messages or texts looking for input or support over the next few months. I certainly am not proposing to respond saying 'I'm sorry, I don't work with sailing any more, have a nice life'.

"People who are actively involved in Olympic sport and have spent years of their time in Olympic sport, generally, they're keen to support the development of athletes in their chosen sport, whatever that is. They've sacrificed a lot of their own lives to support those of others. I don't think that's just going to stop for Shane necessarily as it is for me.

"I think the thing that will probably change that most, I suspect, is as and when he's involved with a competing cycling team, where he probably will feel he's conflicted. And that would probably be the thing that would be the biggest trigger to move that on."

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