UK Sport investigating claims of racism, bullying and harassment against BBSA

A new investigation into the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association relates to allegations of racism, bullying and harassment made by its only black board member, the PA news agency understands.

UK Sport announced earlier on Wednesday that it had opened an independent investigation, which it is understood relates to a complaint made in July by BBSA board member Colin Rattigan.

He alleges that he was subject to an “extended period” of bullying and harassment, and claims recordings of board meetings were made in an attempt to entrap him. It is understood in addition to his complaint to UK Sport, he has raised this as a breach of privacy issue with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office.

It is also thought that he reported that a number of sources had told him that bobsleigh pilot Lamin Deen and other black coaches were being subjected to discriminatory treatment.

A senior coach at the BBSA wrote separately to UK Sport last week.

Great Britain’s Lamin Deen in action in Pyeongchang
Great Britain’s Lamin Deen in action in Pyeongchang

In the letter, the coach wrote that his experiences had left him “seriously worried”, saying he had witnessed examples of discrimination and an active campaign to sabotage Rattigan’s strategy of development.

The coach claimed the behaviour was based on “narrow-mindedness, discrimination and prejudice” and that he and his peers “now had no confidence in the chair or the board”.

The BBSA was the subject of a 2017 UK Sport investigation, which looked into allegations of a “toxic culture” within the organisation.

It was put on notice by UK Sport that the £7.2million investment in its successful skeleton programme was contingent on a major shake-up at BBSA board level.

Rattigan was appointed to the board in 2019.

Another issue understood to have been raised by Rattigan was the board’s handling of the process to recruit Tom De La Hunty as bobsleigh performance director.

De La Hunty has told the PA news agency he was offered the job by the BBSA board at the start of the year, prompting him to give his notice to his employers at the Dutch and Belgian bobsleigh federations.

The death of Nodar Kumaritashvili led to members of the Dutch bobsleigh squad pulling out of the 2010 Winter Olympics
The death of Nodar Kumaritashvili led to members of the Dutch bobsleigh squad pulling out of the 2010 Winter Olympics

He then faced repeated questions about allegations of making a sexist remark and bullying dating back to 2010.

He denied ever making a sexist remark and said the claims of bullying related to his public criticism of Dutch bobsleigh athletes for pulling out of the Vancouver Olympic Games following the death of Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili.

Despite the questioning, De La Hunty was told in May the board had approved his appointment, and received an email confirming his appointment subject to terms being agreed later the same month.

However, he eventually tore up the contract in June after he was told by BBSA chair Joanna Poulton that she could not approve it because she had not seen it.

De La Hunty claims the delays over his appointment were prompted by fears at board level that it would strengthen Rattigan’s position.

“Colin has made lots of changes, he’s rubbed up the noses of a lot of people on the board and they don’t want him around,” he said.

“They don’t want him in a more powerful position having me as performance director teamed up with him.

“I’m certain they didn’t want us two together, and they definitely don’t want him around.”

The BBSA is due to hold a board meeting on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the BBSA said on Wednesday morning: “We welcome the independent investigation commissioned by UK Sport and are happy to co-operate fully.”

The BBSA has been approached for further comment.