The chief executive of British Cycling, Ian Drake, has confirmed that he will stand down in April after seven years at the helm of an organisation lauded for marrying medal success to participation growth but that is now mired in controversy.
It is understood Drake decided at the end of last year that he would leave the governing body, for which he has worked since 1998, following the Rio Olympic cycle if he could also secure a sponsor to replace Sky and win the bid to host the 2019 road world championships.
“Some time ago I made the decision that the Rio Games would be my last as CEO of British Cycling,” Drake said in a statement. “I believe that the end of this Olympic cycle is the natural moment for a new CEO to take the organisation forward into the Tokyo Games and beyond.
“I have been involved with British Cycling in some form for almost 20 years, the last eight as CEO, and it is an organisation that I will always love. I have been privileged to be a part of the amazing success we have experienced over those two decades and I know that it will go on to even greater heights in the years to come.
“All organisations, particularly those operating at the highest level of sport, periodically require new leadership to take them to greater heights and tackle their new challenges – now is the right moment for both myself and British Cycling to move on.”
It was announced last month that HSBC would take over from Sky as the headline sponsor of British Cycling’s participation programme, though the media giant still backs the professional cycling offshoot that is mired in controversy over Bradley Wiggins’s use of therapeutic use exemptions and a medical package that is the subject of a UK Anti-Doping investigation.
Last week, cycling’s world governing body announced that the 2019 road world championships would be awarded to Yorkshire, unlocking £15m of government investment in grassroots facilities.
Ex-British Cycling boss Peter Keen says innocent riders risk being tainted
During his tenure as chief executive, British Cycling has enjoyed an unprecedented run of Olympic success and become one of the few sports to marry that with strong growth in the number of grassroots participants. But Drake’s departure will now also inevitably be seen through the lens of an ongoing review of British Cycling’s culture that was sparked by bullying allegations against the former performance director Shane Sutton and the furore engulfing Team Sky. UK Sport is conducting an independent review of the bullying and sexism claims, which are strongly denied by Sutton.
Team Sky grew out of British Cycling as part of an attempt to extend its dominance to professional cycling.
In its early years both Drake and Brian Cookson, the British Cycling president who went on to take the same role at the UCI, sat on an advisory board set up to oversee the new professional team.
Sir Dave Brailsford also initially acted as performance director for both wings of the organisation before concentrating on his role as Sky team principal.
Brailsford and Wiggins have denied any wrongdoing over claims that Sky pushed ethical boundaries in its use of the TUE system but have faced increasingly loud calls to further clarify their position.
Drake, a keen cyclist, first worked with the governing body as a consultant in 1995 before joining full time in 1998 to develop the talent pathway that later paid such dividends.
In 2004 he became participations and operations director, before becoming deputy chief executive in 2007 and then chief executive in 2009 following the breakthrough at the Beijing Games.
Meanwhile Peter Keen, Brailsford’s predecessor as performance director who went on to take the same role at UK Sport and was a key architect of Team GB’s surge up the medal table, said “the need for conclusive investigations and evidence is greater than ever” and warned of possible collateral damage for other British riders such as Jason Kenny and Dame Sarah Storey.
“I have never sensed anything about them that says that what we have seen isn’t the absolute real deal,” he told the BBC. “Where there’s confusion and doubt about a very high-level performance sport, linked to a programme they are a part of, that’s my greatest fear.”