13 November 2017

Jess Varnish launches legal action against British Cycling and UK Sport

British Olympian Jess Varnish is launching legal action against British Cycling and UK Sport reports the BBC, in a case that could have implications for all athletes funded by UK Sport. It is understood that Varnish’s legal action claims she suffered sex discrimination, detriment for whistleblowing, victimisation and unfair dismissal.

It is understood that a preliminary hearing at an employment tribunal in April 2018 will decide whether Varnish can be considered an employee of British Cycling and UK Sport. If the tribunal agrees that she is an employee, this could mean that UK Sport may have to pay national insurance and pension costs to all athletes that fall under its jurisdiction.

British Cycling rejected eight of nine allegations of sexism against former British Cycling Technical Director Shane Sutton in October last year, however Varnish did not discover these details until December, when she instructed her solicitors to appeal. In October 2016, British Cycling announced that it had ‘upheld an allegation made by Jess Varnish that former Technical Director Shane Sutton had used inappropriate and discriminatory language’.

British Cycling and UK Sport launched an investigation in April 2016, after Sutton revealed in a newspaper interview that Varnish’s contract would not be renewed. Varnish then made the allegations of sexism in an interview with the Daily Mail. Varnish’s comments were supported by Beijing 2008 gold medal winner Nicole Cooke and by London 2012 gold medal winner Victoria Pendleton. Paralympic cyclist Darren Kenny also told the Daily Mail that Sutton had made disparaging remarks about para-cyclists.

Sutton has since agreed a contract with the Chinese Cycling Association, reports the Daily Mail. Varnish is studying sports nutrition at Manchester Metropolitan University.

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