Sir Chris Hoy has added his voice to those arguing that the coverage of British Cycling’s recent bullying allegations had been “sensationalised”. In a statement on his personal website, Hoy said he had found it "upsetting and incredibly sad to read" the claims of some of his former colleagues but insisted that he himself did not recognise their descriptions of the elite set-up. He added that the fallout had descended, in his opinion, into “very public mudslinging”.
Hoy has largely remained silent since the controversy first erupted last April when Jess Varnish accused former technical director Shane Sutton of sexism and bullying. The six-time Olympic champion, 41, published one statement on his website at the time, declining to comment on specific allegations against Sutton, but saying that in his experience the Australian had been nothing but inspirational.
Hoy has now decided to go public with his views on developments over the last 12 months, which have seen a damaging UK Anti-Doping investigation into British Cycling and Team Sky, and an independent review of the sport's "culture and climate”, which if the leaked draft is anything to go by, will be strongly critical.
In a statement posted on his website, Hoy wrote: “I've sat by and watched the media reports unfold regarding the serious allegations relating to the treatment of riders within the team.
"It's upsetting and incredibly sad to read, but I feel bound to say, these are not experiences I recognise from my time at British Cycling.
"It feels terrible to think that anyone has ever experienced bullying or discrimination during their time with British Cycling.
"Hundreds of riders have come through the system over the past 20 years. As members of the British Cycling squad, we've all had the same network of support around us. Clearly a small percentage of the team felt that support didn't meet their expectations at all times during their careers.
"Each and every one of those riders has the right to be respected and for their grievances to be heard. Every organisation has a responsibility to stamp out bullying and/or discrimination.
"I believe this very public mud-slinging and media coverage has been sensationalised in many ways, however one very important upside is that those riders know they are now being listened to.”
Hoy added that he understood British Cycling had recognised it had "fallen short in a number of areas" but pointed to the announcement of a 39-point action plan to improve athlete and staff welfare as a big step in the right direction.
"This will not only protect the riders but must equally importantly also protect the coaches and support staff too, whose own reputations have been damaged irreparably over the past 12 months," he wrote.
"Some may argue (it is) too little too late, but even for those who did feel let down by British Cycling in the past, it's encouraging to know that British Cycling is now engaging with those riders. I don't doubt for one second that every single person involved in this process has the interests of our sport at heart."
Stephen Park, the new performance director at British Cycling, recently voiced similar opinions to Hoy, telling The Sunday Telegraph that he felt there had been “almost a desire to sensationalise and hang people out to dry” which was “disappointing”. Park added that from what he understood the various allegations were not representative of the wider picture.
Riders such as Dani King, Joanna Rowsell-Shand and Andy Tennant have also said recently that they did not experience any bullying behaviour, although they admitted they had not given evidence to the independent inquiry.