Cycling: Steph McKenzie lifts the lid on bullying culture under Anthony Peden

Former New Zealand track cyclist Steph McKenzie has lifted the lid on the bullying and toxic culture under the watch of former sprint coach Anthony Peden.

McKenzie was dumped from the squad because she was deemed overweight by Peden, but has revealed to Newshub that the issues run deeper than just conflict with her ex-coach.

Two years after leaving the sport she loved, McKenzie said the fallout from the last week, since Peden's departure, has brought back ugly memories.

McKenzie told Newshub the environment was one of bullying and negativity.

The 24-year-old had eyes on medalling at the Rio Olympics, after her introduction to top-level competition at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

McKenzie claims Peden constantly criticised her about her weight, regardless of her performance, and says a fat-shaming campaign against her from within the team was instigated by her coach.

"I was on anti-depressants and then left that environment still on anti-depressants, but did they care? No," she told Newshub.

"Every day, he would say 'skin folds, skin folds, skin folds'. I felt very uncomfortable and you could tell when he was happy or upset, all around my weight."

at the 2014 Oceania Track Championships, Sit Zero Fees Velodrome, Invercargill, New Zealand, Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo: Dianne Manson /
Photo credit: Photosport
Southland Steph McKenzie after finishing first in the WE Sprint final at the Skoda Elite & U19 Track National Championships at the Avantidrome, Cambridge, New Zealand, Friday, January 30, 2015. Photo: Dianne Manson /
Photo credit: Photosport
Anthony Peden
Anthony Peden Photo credit: Getty

McKenzie has type 1 diabetes, which means it wasn't always easy for her to lose weight.

She was so driven to meet Peden's performance expectations, she would lie about her weight to keep him happy.

"He was happy when I lost 500g, but then he was very upset and very, very disappointed if I had not lost any weight or put on 200g.

"I was asked, 'Should you be eating that? Do you need to be eating that?' Keeping in mind that I had to, because my blood sugar levels were low, but they didn't care."

What's more concerning to McKenzie is what she calls a complete lack of culture, leadership and support from within Cycling New Zealand.

"They need to change it, they absolutely need to change that negativity mindset in the environment, because it's letting a lot of the athletes down.

"I felt like I never got that support, so I'm here to support anyone to achieve their goals."

Steph McKenzie may have come out the other side, but there are many questions for Cycling New Zealand to answer.