Varnish dropped from Great Britain track squad ahead of Olympics

Sutton denies it is revenge for criticism after failing to qualify for Rio

Jess Varnish is no longer a member of British Cycling's Olympic programme after British Cycling decided not to renew her contract, according to a report by the Daily Telegraph.

The British newspaper claims Varnish has not trained on the track since March and suggests it could mark the end of 25-year-old’s international track career. The decision will also shuffle the women’s sprint squad for the Rio Olympics, with Katy Marchant likely to secure the second spot in the women’s sprint alongside Becky James.

Varnish’s removal from the Great Britain squad comes after she vented her anger after she and Marchant failed to qualify for a place in the Team Sprint event for Rio after the London track world championships despite finishing fifth. Varnish pointed the finger at team management for a lack of planning, which she claimed hindered their chances of securing the qualification results and points needed in the previous two years.

“There’s been no real plan. We have not been out there racing against the world. There have been other people that aren’t even on the squad now trying to qualify the ‘A team’ a place at the Olympics…” Varnish said in the heat of the moment after failing to qualify for Rio. “We’re fifth in the world, we’ve beaten so many of the teams, this is the best we’ve ever competed and we’re not going to the Olympics. It should never have come down to this.”

British Cycling coaches said they had no regrets about what happened and pointed to the loss of James due to injury as a factor for failing to qualify for the Team Sprint. In the London 2012 Olympics Varnish and Victoria Pendleton broke the world record in qualification but were then disqualified in the semi-final after judges ruled that Pendleton began her lap before Varnish had completed hers.

Varnish fought back from the disappointment of the world championships saying: “I won’t let people like this make me quit. I started being a cyclist when I was 12 or 13 years old to be Olympic champion. I’m not going to quit."

However Great Britain technical director Shane Sutton told the Telegraph that the decision to drop Varnish was based ‘purely on performance grounds’ and was not as a consequence of Varnish’s criticism.

“The evidence doesn’t lie,” the Telegraph reports Sutton as saying. “There were 10 events which counted [towards qualification]. Jess participated in eight, Katy in seven. They went head-to-head on five occasions with the French team who beat them overall by three points, and the French beat them on four occasions. So they didn’t deserve the place. She [Varnish] had a golden opportunity to qualify. But then because she didn’t she looked to blame everyone else.”

It seems that Varnish wanted to be considered for the individual sprint event but Sutton said her chances did not justify funding from British Cycling and UK Sport.

“Jess is 25,” Sutton said. “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. So the trajectory has been that way [down] not that way [up]. There is no point carrying on and wasting UK Sport’s money on someone who is not going to medal going forward.”

Varnish’s initial reaction to the report in the Telegraph came via Twitter. She thanked people for messages of support and wrote: “British Cycling drops Jess Varnish from Olympic programme on 'performance grounds' and denies it...” adding a link to the Telegraph story.

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