The coach of Britain’s six-time Olympic champion Jason Kenny has been sensationally sacked ahead of the Tokyo Games for multiple offences including ‘inappropriate relationships with riders’.
British Cycling dramatically dismissed their head men’s sprint coach, Kevin Stewart, last week after he was found guilty of gross misconduct and bringing the governing body into disrepute.
Sportsmail understands the allegations are centred around Stewart – who is married to Irish international track cyclist Robyn Stewart – becoming too close to a female rider in the British Cycling team and sending inappropriate messages.
Kevin Stewart, a British Olympic Cycling coach pictured in 2017 alongside cyclists Lauren Bate (left) and Georgia Hilleard (right), has been dramatically sacked for long-term inappropriate relationships – there is no suggestion the two pictured are involved in any way
Stewart, pictured celebrating a 2017 bronze medal with Bate and Hilleard at the junior track World Cycling Championships in Italy, departed last week after he was found guilty of gross misconduct and bringing the governing body into disrepute – there is no suggestion the others pictured are involved in any way
Stewart (right) is pictured with the Irish international track cyclist and his wife, Robyn Stewart (centre), and cyclist Mark Stewart (left)
The Scot’s contract was terminated with immediate effect after his behaviour had come to the attention of British Cycling performance director Stephen Park.
Stewart was the man tasked with overseeing Kenny’s quest to become Britain’s most successful Olympian of all time in Tokyo, having been promoted from his position in the academy in April 2019.
But just eight months out from the rearranged Games, British Cycling’s plans have been rocked by his dismissal – particularly the nature of it – in what is the latest scandal to hit the organisation.
In an email sent to riders and seen by Sportsmail, four separate reasons were given to explain Stewart’s sudden departure.
They were listed as:
-Long-term pattern of inappropriate relationships with riders;
-Serious act of insubordination by failing to follow specific direction of the performance director in regard to relationships with riders and professional boundaries;
-Serious inappropriate use of electronic communication;
-Actions bringing British Cycling into disrepute.
Stewart said: ‘I wholeheartedly apologise to the team for my actions, which I acknowledge were not acceptable.
‘I realised my actions had made my position on the team untenable and had handed in my resignation before being dismissed while on my notice period.’
Stephen Park, performance director for British Cycling, said: ‘While this has been uncomfortable for everybody concerned, it demonstrates the robustness of the processes we have in place when concerns are raised.
‘The GB Cycling Team has a clear set of expected behaviours and values and we must hold ourselves and each other to account when we do not meet the standards of behaviour we set as a team.’
It is another embarrassing episode for British Cycling, especially as it comes so soon to an Olympics in which Stewart was charged with defending the three titles won by Team GB and Kenny at Rio 2016 – the keirin, sprint and team sprint.
Stewart – pictured again with his wife (centre) and Mark Stewart (right) – had his contract terminated with immediate effect after his behaviour had come to the attention of British Cycling performance director Stephen Park
Stewart’s departure rocks British cycling just eight months out from the rearranged Olympics, where he would have been working alongside star man Jason Kenny
Kenny needs just one gold medal in Tokyo to surpass his former team-mate Sir Chris Hoy and become Britain’s outright most successful Olympian – but he will now have to do so under new leadership.
News of Stewart’s sacking comes just as British Cycling appointed a new chief executive, Brian Facer, the former London Irish boss who is replacing the outgoing Julie Harrington in January.
It has also coincided with the track team’s first competition since the Olympics were postponed, with the European Championships in Bulgaria getting underway on Wednesday.
Britain have taken 14 riders to the event, although they have not sent a men’s sprint team so Stewart would not have been involved.
Stewart’s last competition saw him help the trio of Kenny, Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens claim silver in the team sprint behind the Netherlands at the World Championships in Berlin in February.
The news is a blow for Kenny, with the Tokyo Olympics scheduled to take place next year
Kenny (centre) needs one more gold medal to become Britain’s most successful Olympian
Britain are seen as a banker to earn a medal in the team sprint at Tokyo, an event they have won at each of the last three Olympics.
Stewart, who competed for Scotland at the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010, was only put in control of the men’s sprint podium programme last year, when he replaced Justin Grace as part of a sprint coaching shake-up.
His shock dismissal has echoes of British Cycling’s preparations for Rio 2016, when Shane Sutton quit as technical director just 100 days before the Games after Sportsmail revealed he had been accused of sexism and discrimination towards riders, including Jess Varnish.
BRITISH CYCLING STATEMENT
British Cycling has taken the decision to dismiss Kevin Stewart, Podium Sprint Coach, on the grounds of gross misconduct following repeated warnings that his behaviours fell short of the values and standards expected by the Great Britain Cycling Team.
The gross misconduct was committed in four areas:
1. Long term pattern of inappropriate relationships with riders.
2. Failing to follow specific direction of the Performance Director in regard to relationship with riders and professional boundaries.
3. Inappropriate use of electronic communication.
4. Actions bringing British Cycling into disrepute.
The investigation into his conduct which led to his dismissal found no evidence of a physical relationship between Kevin and any rider on the Great Britain Cycling Team.