Ken Matheson: Former British Cycling coach says 'culture of fear' exists

Home of British Cycling
Matheson says fear was used as a management tool at British Cycling

A "culture of fear and favour is endemic" within British Cycling, according to a former senior coach.

Ken Matheson, 71, says he suffered a nervous breakdown and "seriously contemplated suicide".

The claims are made in his statement, which the BBC has obtained, to the UK Sport independent review into the culture at British Cycling.

The review came after separate allegations of bullying and sexism at British Cycling.

Performance director Shane Sutton resigned in April after being accused of making sexist and derogatory comments to cyclists - though he was later cleared of all but one of the claims against him.

A British Cycling spokesman said evidence for the independent review into the culture of its World Class Programme had been "sought and welcomed from a wide range of sources", but added it would be "inappropriate to comment" until the full review is published.

What are his allegations?

Matheson worked for British Cycling from January 1999 to December 2002, coaching Team GB's men's road squad and managing the road programme, the women's endurance programme and the Paralympic team.

He says after he "fell from favour" with senior staff, he was subjected to "undermining, intimidating and threatening" behaviour, which he described as a "frightening experience".

He describes the culture within British Cycling as "macho, brutal and divisive" with fear used as "a powerful management tool".

Although he says he signed a confidentiality agreement on leaving, he tweeted on Wednesday: "I'm talking now - and sod the gagging clause!"

Matheson says he was "bullied" into leaving British Cycling, and his solicitor advised him not to accept the terms he was offered.

Among the other allegations made by Matheson are:

  • Discrimination against Britain's Paralympic team "certainly existed".
  • The World Class Performance Programme worked in a "bubble" with "little or no supervision" by British Cycling's management.
  • A "considerable amount of money" has been spent on financial settlements for staff who were "forced" to leave British Cycling.
  • Favoured athletes and staff tended to form "enclaves" and those on the outside were "often treated badly and fearful for their future".
  • He was "forced" to accept the role of Paralympic team manager in 2001. In response, Peter Keen - who was British Cycling performance director at the time - said the move was due to Matheson forming "a close personal relationship" with a female rider under his management.

Matheson's account of events is highly critical of Sir Dave Brailsford, who joined British Cycling in 1997 and worked under Keen before succeeding him in 2003.

Matheson says during his time at the organisation it turned into a dictatorship with a "management style based on fear and favour".

Earlier this week, Brailsford, 52, appeared in front of a culture, media and sport select committee holding an inquiry into tackling doping in sport.

During Brailsford's time at British Cycling, it delivered its biggest medal haul since 1908 - with four at the 2004 Olympics. Great Britain topped the medal table at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Games.

Matheson's statement will form part of UK Sport's independent review into the culture within British Cycling, which stopped accepting evidence on 30 November and is expected to publish in January.