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Track rider hopes for reinstatement as Shane Sutton sexist allegations row continues

Jess Varnish is said to be still training for the Rio Olympic Games despite being dropped by British Cycling - as she hopes she may yet be reinstated.

A source told the Telegraph that she had to resort to the gym to keep fit, since her track bike, property of British Cycling, had been taken back.

She is believed to want a ‘ride-off’ against Katy Marchant, as she feels it is her instead who deserves the spot on the women's sprint team.

This weekend we reported how a bitter war of words has broken out in British Cycling after the track rider Jess Varnish complained she was told by technical director Shane Sutton to “go and have a baby” after being dropped from the Olympic programme.

Last week we reported how Sutton said the decision had been taken “purely on performance grounds.”

He denies the claims she is now making, along with earlier assertions that she was dropped because she criticised the coaches in early March.

British Cycling have said this morning that they will be contacting the cyclist.

UK Sport have also weighed into the debate, and a spokesman said: 'We take any allegations of sexism among World-Class Programme staff or athletes extremely seriously and welcome British Cycling's decision to investigate these claims with Jess.'

Speaking trackside last week, Varnish expressed disappointment with how the team’s management had tinkered with the squad.

“I feel sick. We have been basically playing catch up through bad decisions and bad luck. How many more times can I keep putting my life on hold, making these choices for my career, if it’s not going to pay off, through no fault of our own?

“There’s been people put out for races, say the European Championships last year … it’s great they’ve been given an opportunity in major championships and to try to qualify the ‘A team’ for a place at Olympic Games, but they’re not there yet.

In addition, the 25-year-old has claimed that Sutton told her she was “too old”.

Now, she told the Guardian, when she went to Manchester Velodrome to collect her belongings after her contract was not renewed she asked to see the performance data which had led to her being dropped.

“I saw Shane and Iain and asked if I could have some of the [performance] information,” she said. “They couldn’t give it to me and said I’d been on the programme too long, that I was too old at the age of 25. Shane said that I should just move on and go and have a baby.”

She added: “After 2012 I was told that, “with an ass like mine I couldn’t change position within the team sprint”. It basically implies the stronger woman has to go in “man one” position because I’m quite glute dominant, shall we say.”

In a statement British Cycling said : “Following a post-world championships review of every rider on the track programme the decision was made not to renew Jess’s place based on performances in training and competition and on a projection of capability for a medal in Tokyo. The decision was upheld by an evaluation committee following an appeal by Jess.

“At no point in the performance review, the appeal process or in subsequent correspondence did Jess raise concerns about sexism or any other form of discriminatory behaviour in the Great Britain Cycling Team.

“However, we are fully committed to the principles and active promotion of equality of opportunity. As such, we treat any such allegations with the utmost seriousness and we will be contacting Jess to offer to discuss her concerns in full.”

Sutton, in his own statement, said: “I wholeheartedly deny that I said or did anything other than act with complete professionalism in my dealings with Jess.

“As with all other riders on the track programme, she was subject to a performance review following the worlds and the data did not justify Jess retaining a lottery-funded place on the podium programme as an athlete with medal potential in this Olympic cycle or the next.

“Jess has been a great athlete to work with and it’s important to me that the valuable contribution she made to British Cycling and women’s cycling during her time on the Great Britain Cycling Team is not forgotten.”

Sutton said that if anything her performances had deteriorated in recent years.

“Jess is 25. She has been with us a long, long time. She qualified 17th in the match sprint [in London] so her chances of medalling in Rio were very very slim if not none. And she hasn’t gone as quick as she went three years ago … There is no point carrying on and wasting UK Sport’s money on someone who is not going to medal going forward.”

Sutton has also felt it necessary to speak with Varnish’s boyfriend, 2013 BMX world champion, Liam Phillips, about not renewing her contract.

“I had a long chat with him to try to make him understand that we don’t take these decisions lightly. It wasn’t as though we ‘got rid’ of Jess.  It’s just that it was up for renewal and we didn’t renew it.”

 

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.