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British Cycling and UK Sport in firing line in long-awaited review into bullying claims

The final report into British cycling could impact other Olympic sports too. Credit: PA

The long-awaited review into British Cycling’s culture of bullying and the sport’s failure to deal with any of its issues is not expected to pull many punches.

In the firing line will be those who ran Britain’s most successful Olympic Sport at the time - and senior management at UK Sport who funded it.

The review, led by Annamarie Phelps, the head of British Rowing, is expected be critical of the sport’s leadership for ignoring evidence of riders being badly treated and also UK Sport for not picking up or acting on “red flags” that should have set alarm bells ringing.

The final report, to be published on Wednesday, has been altered since an original draft was leaked in March.

But sources close to the process told ITV News that the tone and content remains largely the same.

So much so that recommendations it made then, for changes to the board at British Cycling for example, are already underway.

Will the report call time on alleged bullying in British cycling? Credit: PA

Cycling also has a new Performance Director, Stephen Park, and new chairman Jonathan Browning has put in place a 39 point action plan to tackle the problems raised in the review’s initial findings.

Despite some high profile absentees, the panel is also thought to be happy with the breadth of witnesses who gave evidence and is confident they’ve built an accurate and comprehensive picture of the failings at the time.

Two previous investigations are highlighted: The King report published in 2012, which was the first to uncover any suggestion of a bullying culture; and also board member Alex Russell’s inquiry into how Jess Varnish’s complaints about her treatment were dealt with.

The draft report by Phelps’ panel accused British Cycling's Board of "reversing" Russell's conclusions – she had originally found in Varnish’s favour and against her coach Shane Sutton.

As a result, it also questioned whether the Board was fit to govern.

As for the King investigation which had earlier thrown up warnings about behavioural issues within the World Class Programme – the then chief executive Ian Drake was accused of providing a “watered down” version for public consumption.

UK Sport Chief Executive Liz Nicholl. Credit: PA

Senior figures at UK Sport, including its chief executive Liz Nicholl, have always insisted they were never alerted to the damning detail in that investigation.

The overriding consequences of Wednesday/s review are likely to be discussions and decisions that will impact on all Olympic sports.

They will centre on whether UK Sport’s ‘no compromise’ policy when it comes to funding has actually morphed into a ‘win at all costs’ mentality, where medals have become a far higher priority than athlete welfare.

If that is the case, and changes of that misguided method is required, it may be that cycling is not the only high profile sports body that requires radical surgery to its leadership.