Varnish: I no longer trust British Cycling

Sprinter publishes full statement on alleged sexism at British Cycling

After speaking out about sexism within British Cycling in an interview with the Daily Mail last week, Jess Varnish has released a full statement on her website Tuesday standing by her allegations that after being dropped by the federation, technical director Shane Sutton told her she was “too old” and that she should "move on and go and have a baby.”

“The comment that Shane Sutton told me ’to go and have a baby’ is true,” Varnish wrote, releasing her statement in response to Sutton denying the allegations. “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.”

British Cycling issued a statement in response to Varnish's allegations in which they said the decision to drop the rider from the team ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio was made purely on sporting grounds because of underperforming at the 2016 Track World Championships in London.

In her statement, Varnish noted that during the two-year Olympic qualifying process, she gained more qualifying points than any other British female sprint rider and that she was consistently performing in the top five in the world for lap 1 times in the team sprint. She also said that she qualified Olympic places in the individual sprint and keirin. She added that since 2012, she has won medals at the World Championships, European Championships and Commonwealth Games.

Varnish also said that prior to being cut from British Cycling, she was never given a warning during the team’s monthly performance reviews, and that she was denied access to her own performance criteria when she requested to see it.

“With regards to my contract not being renewed on performance grounds, I find this very hard to accept,” Varnish wrote. “Prior to the 2016 World Championships I was not once told that I was underperforming. We have monthly reviews and at no stage was I put under review, or set performance targets to keep my place on the programme.

“The first I knew that the coaches had an issue with my performance levels was 5 days after the 2016 World Championships, when I was told I wouldn’t be getting a new contract over the phone.”

She said that she has since contacted the Human Resources manager at British Cycling, requesting the code of conduct and athlete agreement that athletes sign with the organisation.

She also requested to find out “what processes are open to me as a member of British Cycling to pursue my complaints regarding Shane Sutton. I am awaiting their response.”

After Varnish spoke out about her experience with alleged sexism at British Cycling, other former members of the program Nicole Cooke and Victoria Pendleton have opened up publically to share similar experiences.

Pendleton defended Varnish’s allegations in an interview with the Telegraph, saying, “I have never spoken out before. But I have to do it now. I would not be able to live with myself if I sat back and let people try to discredit [Varnish’s] character.”

Cooke detailed her experience with sexism at British Cycling in an exclusive for the Guardian, calling it “sexism by design.”

“I have been amazed by the response and support shown to me since the Daily Mail interview,” Varnish wrote. “I have been contacted by other riders both present and past, to say that they have experienced similar behaviour at British Cycling. I am aware that some people at British cycling are afraid to come forward due to the culture of fear that exists, as they don’t want to lose their jobs. I am not alone in my experience and I’m glad that a few feel more confident to speak up as a result of my interview.”

Varnish finished her statement by writing that she is seeking a fair chance to compete for her country, a chance that has been “denied to me unfairly.”

She also wants to change the allegedly sexist culture at British Cycling.

“I hope that by shining a light on this culture, and sharing my experiences, the relevant people can investigate and make changes.

“If they do then this can only benefit all involved, who want to work hard and compete for Great Britain, in a safe and fair environment.”

Full statement from Jess Varnish:

My contract was not renewed by British Cycling after the 2016 World Championships. I appealed the decision with the help of the British Athlete’s Commission and was unsuccessful. I received a termination email from Shane Sutton and within it it said that the door at British Cycling was always open if I met the criteria. He told me to prove him wrong. I asked for a meeting with Shane and Iain Dyer to discuss my data and the criteria but this was repeatedly declined. Despite this, and the comments made to me, I resolved to get my head down and continue training in the hope to show British Cycling that I was still good enough for Rio 2016 and beyond. To prove them wrong. I was also told by British Cycling that they did not comment publicly or announce when a rider’s membership isn’t renewed. I therefore made the decision not to discuss the decision publicly as well.

When Shane Sutton gave his interview to the Telegraph discussing my situation I was devastated. I wasn’t offered the chance to comment, I only found out about the interview once it had been published and he said in his interview that I was ’too old’ and 'not worth wasting UK Sport’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. There was no longer any point in staying quiet. He told everyone that my Rio 2016 dream was over before telling me. This is why I decided to speak out, I obviously no longer have anything to lose and can no longer trust Shane or those in charge at British Cycling to be fair.

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.

HR -I have been contacted by the HR Manager at British Cycling, following the Daily Mail article, but I am unsure as to what the purpose of the contact is. I have asked them to share with me the code of conduct they implement alongside the Athlete agreement we sign and also what processes are open to me as a member of British Cycling to pursue my complaints regarding Shane Sutton. I am awaiting their response.

Cooke, Pendleton - I have been amazed by the response and support shown to me since the Daily Mail interview. I have been contacted by other riders both present and past, to say that they have experienced similar behaviour at British Cycling. I am aware that some people at British cycling are afraid to come forward due to the culture of fear that exists, as they don’t want to lose their jobs. I am not alone in my experience and I’m glad that a few feel more confident to speak up as a result of my interview.

Performance - With regards to my contract not being renewed on performance grounds, I find this very hard to accept. Prior to the 2016 World Championships I was not once told that I was underperforming. We have monthly reviews and at no stage was I put under review, or set performance targets to keep my place on the programme. The first I knew that the coaches had an issue with my performance levels was 5 days after the 2016 World Championships, when I was told I wouldn’t be getting a new contract over the phone.

During the 2 year Olympic qualifying process, I gained more qualifying points than any other British female sprint rider. I was consistently performing in the top 5 in the World for Lap 1 times in the Team Sprint, and I have also qualified Olympic places in the individual Sprint and Keirin. Since 2012 I have won medals at the World & European Championships and Commonwealth Games.

At 25 years old I feel my best years are ahead of me. Sprinters such as Jamie Staff, Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy, all achieved success well into their thirties, so I refuse to believe that my career is finished.

I want a fair chance to compete for my country. 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. I hope that by shining a light on this culture, and sharing my experiences, the relevant people can investigate and make changes. If they do then this can only benefit all involved, who want to work hard and compete for Great Britain, in a safe and fair environment.

For now I remain open to sharing my experiences with both British Cycling and/or UK Sport, and will happily engage with any investigations into the comments that Shane Sutton has made to me, and other riders. I would prefer to do this privately, however to date this hasn’t been an option.

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.

Jess

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