Jess Varnish: Joanna Rowsell Shand defends British Cycling over sexism claims

Jess Varnish
Jess Varnish criticised British Cycling for its selection policy after the Track World Championships in March

Olympic gold medallist Joanna Rowsell Shand says she is "surprised" at Jess Varnish's claim British Cycling's technical director made sexist comments to her.

Varnish, 25, alleges Shane Sutton told her to "go have a baby" after she was dropped from the British team.

Rowsell Shand insists the sport's governing body treats the women's and men's endurance squads identically.

"I've always thought, as a track rider, it's very equal," the 27-year-old said.

"Compared to the men's team pursuit squad, we definitely get equal treatment."

Sutton denies making sexist comments and says British Cycling did not renew Varnish's contract because her times had slowed over the past three years.

Dani King, who raced alongside Rowsell Shand in the 2012 gold medal-winning pursuit team before switching to road cycling, said she had "never encountered" anything sexist.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live's Afternoon Edition, she added: "Shane's a no-nonsense sort of guy, he tells you how it is, but I never had any of those comments made towards me."

Team sprint rider Varnish has been been invited to meet the equalities officer of British Cycling to discuss her concerns.

Road race world champion Lizzie Armitstead defended Varnish's right to publicly comment about any perceived injustice.

"Any athlete in her position has the right to say what she said," said Armitstead, 27.

"She's worked so hard to be in the position she's in and to have that taken away from her, if she feels that it's unjust, then she should speak out about it."

Armitstead, who won road race silver at London 2012, is now based in Monaco and no longer works with British Cycling on a day-to-day basis.

"I haven't operated within British Cycling for a very long time," she said. "I've had to forge my own path, because I needed to."

Varnish, a world, European and Commonwealth Games medallist, missed out on qualification for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after she and Katy Marchant finished fifth at last month's World Championships.

She subsequently criticised British Cycling's coaches for their selection policy during the qualifying period, telling BBC Sport she and Marchant "had been playing catch-up for two years" because of decisions made "above us".

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