Cycling: British Cycling launches review after Varnish's sexism claims

26th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

British Cycling said on Tuesday it had launched an independent review after technical director Shane Sutton had been accused of sexism by sprinter Jess Varnish.

The 25-year-old Varnish was dropped from the British team for this year's Olympic Games in Rio after failing to qualify for the two-woman, two-lap team sprint alongside Katy Marchant.

Tuesday saw Varnish issue a statement restating allegations she had first made in an interview with the Daily Mail newspaper that Australian coach Sutton told her to "go and have a baby" after her contract was not renewed.

Sutton and British Cycling denied the allegations, insisting Varnish had been dropped solely on form.

However, after Varnish's comments were backed up by British Olympic cycling champions Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke, the national governing body announced it would be taking further action.

"British Cycling is announcing the formation of an independent review, in conjunction with UK Sport (the national funding agency), of the federation's performance programmes following allegations of discriminatory behaviour," a statement said.

"We are fully committed to the principles and active promotion of equality of opportunity and we must take any such allegations seriously.

"The terms of the review will be announced in due course and no further comment will be made at this stage."

Varnish's statement said comments made by Sutton in an interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper proved she would not have a decent chance of regaining her place in the team.

"I feel that chance is being denied to me unfairly. I also want to change the culture at British Cycling and their treatment of women," she said on Tuesday.

"When Shane Sutton gave his interview to the Telegraph discussing my situation I was devastated. He said in his interview that I was 'too old' and 'not worth wasting UK Sport's (the national funding agency's) money'.

"It was at this point that I realised my career with British Cycling, in Shane Sutton's eyes, was over, and that I would never get a fair trial or opportunity to compete for Great Britain again while Shane is the performance director.

"The comment that Shane Sutton told me 'to go and have a baby' is true. I stand by all my statements in the Daily Mail interview and have examples of other comments made to me during my time at British Cycling by Shane Sutton dating back many years.

"At 25 years old I feel my best years are ahead of me. I also want to compete for Great Britain again. I am not too old. I am not a waste of UK Sport's money. I can win more medals."

Varnish received support from Pendleton, who retired after London 2012, in an interview published in Tuesday's edition of the Telegraph.

"I would not be able to live with myself if I sat back and let people try to discredit (Varnish's) character. Not when I wholeheartedly believe her," she said.

"My experiences were very similar. And I know exactly how miserable they made me."


© 2016 AFP

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