Sutton: I told Varnish to 'lose some timber' but not to 'have a baby'

Former British Cycling technical director says 'I'm not a sexist'

Shane Sutton has sought to shed some light on the conversations that led to him being found to have used sexist language during his time at British Cycling, denying that he ever told Jess Varnish to "move on and go and have a baby", and explaining that he did tell her to "lose some timber".

Track sprinter, Varnish made the allegations against the British Cycling technical director in April after she was dropped from the Olympic programme. Sutton, who was briefly suspended before resigning, has maintained his innocence throughout the six-month internal investigation that concluded last week and upheld Varnish's claims.

Sutton, giving an initial reaction at the weekend, expressed his disbelief at how the panel could have come to its decision, and he gave an interview to Sky Sports News on Monday in which he detailed the conversations that took place between himself and Varnish.

"I'm going to continue to repeat what I've said from day one, that conversation [about going and having a baby] has never taken place. If Jess can produce where the conversation took place, who was there at the time – and I believe it was only me and her – so I'm trying to understand how they've arrived at that decision given it's her word against mine."

Among Varnish's complaints were comments about her weight, and she alleged that Sutton had said her 'ass' was too big to ever change position and ride as 'woman two' in the team sprint.

"The weight conversation definitely happened," admitted Sutton, "but it never happened in the terms it has been described in the press.

"I can visualise the conversation vividly. The coaches and dietitians had sat Jess down and said 'you really need to lose some weight'. Jess was very confused because at one point she thought the coaches were saying 'we need you to get bigger, you need more power'.

"She asked me for my personal opinion and I said, 'Do you want the technical director's opinion or the personal opinion?' My exact words were: 'Personally, you're not a rolling mass, you're not trying to jump off the top of the track here, it's a standing start and we're looking to qualify for the Games in team sprint', and I said 'you need to lose some timber'. Those were my exact words.

"I like to tell the truth, and it could be to my detriment at the times. But the truth is I'm not a sexist, and that's the thing that has really hurt me in all of this."

Varnish upset the British Cycling coaching staff at the World Championships in March when she questioned some of the decision-making after she and Katy Marchant finished fifth in the team sprint, thus missing out on Olympic qualification. She claimed she was then dropped from an upcoming training camp and was soon informed over the phone that she would no longer be part of British Cycling's programme.

"I totally sympathise with her losing her place," said Sutton, "but we are about performance and Jess hadn't done that for quite some time."

Related Articles

Back to top