By national sport reporter David Mark
Cycling Australia (CA) performance director Simon Jones has been labelled “unprofessional” after tweeting “f*** you” in response to critics of Australia’s performance at the recent world track championships.
- Simon Jones swore in a tweet defending Australia’s performance at the world titles in Berlin
- Jones has since deleted the tweet and it is not known whether Cycling Australia will take any action
- He has previously come under fire for his role in guiding Australia’s track cycling fortunes in the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics
Jones took to Twitter following the world titles in Berlin earlier this month to defend Australia’s showing after it failed to win gold and only came away with a silver and two bronze medals.
It is the first time since 2008 that an Australian team has not won at least one gold medal at the world championships.
“To all those key board experts out there — F*** you,” tweeted Jones in the since-deleted post.
“We got a great team of riders, coaches, support and sponsors. Bring on Tokyo Team.”
Australian cycling great Robbie McEwen described Jones’s behaviour as disappointing, saying “it wasn’t the ideal tweet to send out”.
“It [the tweet] is unprofessional if that’s your role,” he said.
“I think you can have better chosen words. But I can understand his frustration, he’s under lots of pressure.”
CA’s managing director Steven Drake said the organisation could not support the language used in the tweet.
“We asked him to delete it and he did,” Drake said, adding Jones acknowledged it was not a great choice of words.
Drake said the tweet was technically a breach of CA’s code of conduct.
The code of conduct states — in part — that all persons who are bound by the code shall “act in a manner which is compatible with the interests of CA”.
But he said that the use of a swear word in the tweet was a “momentary aberration” that did not warrant any disciplinary action.
“In the absence of two words in that tweet I wouldn’t have had any problems with it,” he said.
“We want him and the team to focus on the main target which is Tokyo and not get distracted by comments in the media.”
Drake said he had “every confidence in Simon and the athlete group”, while acknowledging that the team did not perform to expectation at the world championships.
“But we didn’t go there targeting that event,” he said. “We don’t want to be flying in Berlin in early March. We want to be flying in Tokyo.”
Jones’s record under fire, but Berlin was not main aim in 2020
Jones was appointed to his role at Cycling Australia in 2017 following the Australian track team’s disappointing performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics where it won just a silver and a bronze medal despite high hopes of multiple medals, including golds.
Jones has been working with the professional outfit Team Sky and was previously the head coach of British Cycling.
McEwen, a three-time winner of the Tour de France’s points classification, said Jones had attracted criticism for the performance of Australian track cycling ever since he was appointed.
“Since he’s started, there’s been calls for him to be booted straight away,” said McEwen, who represented Australia at three Olympics.
“He was brought in for a reason and he was brought in with the powers that be knowing what he was aiming to do and how he was going to do it.”
McEwen, however, said Jones should not have been a target after the Berlin world championships because the Tokyo Olympics was the focus of Australian track cycling this year.
“They weren’t peaking for the worlds, they weren’t going to win world championships in Berlin, because only a matter of months later we’re on to the Tokyo Olympics,” he said.
“It is so incredibly difficult and dangerous to try and peak twice in a short period like that.”
Jones, speaking after the Berlin world championships, said Australia’s priority was the Tokyo Olympics and not lead-up events.
“We want to win in Tokyo,” he said.
“Yes, we were aiming for podium performances here [in Berlin], or very close to, and you can’t hide the fact we have come up short in some areas. But we have to learn from it.”
Jones told he must ‘uphold some dignity’
Former CA board member Phill Bates, a long-time critic of Jones, said he was “a bit stunned” by the tweet.
“I know he’s been under a bit of pressure, but it shouldn’t resort to going to those sorts of extremes,” he said.
“He’s in a position that’s government funded. He’s also in a position that’s supported by Cycling Australia, so he’s got a responsibility to uphold some dignity.”
Bates said he had received phone calls from senior cycling administrators around the world in regard to the tweet.
“In some countries — if the same thing happened — they said they would most probably be asked to return their mobile phone, their computer and sent packing,” he said.
CA accused of rushing Jones’s appointment
Bates said his criticism of Jones was multilayered.
“I’m not a fan because I thought there were better qualified people for the position,” he said.
“I thought it was rushed and not very well done.
“And I just hope that down the track that he does go on and do what he’s paid to do and do exceptionally well at the Olympic Games.
“When other countries are breaking world records and we’re not up there with them, it would suggest that we’ve got a fair bit of work to do.”
Bates is a supporter of renowned Australian coach Gary Sutton, whose CA contract ended soon after Jones began his position.
Sutton’s CA contract was not renewed and he went on to take a job with USA Cycling.
McEwen said decisions about people losing their jobs had caused some of the ongoing criticism of Jones.
“People who lost their positions in the high-performance unit … a lot of people are standing up for them and calling for the head of Simon Jones as a bit of retribution for coming in and taking someone else’s spot, as it were,” he said.
“I haven’t been a fan of everything that Simon Jones has implemented since he’s been brought into the high-performance program, but … if you don’t know all the details then you’re better off trying to find them out before you level lots of criticism.”
McEwen is more bullish about Australia’s chances at the Tokyo Olympics than Bates.
“Their best is yet to come,” he said.
“I would not be at all shocked if the top two teams at the Olympics are Australia and Italy, or Australia and Great Britain, and Denmark — who set three world records in a row — don’t medal. That is entirely feasible.”