Jess Varnish: Rider explains reasons for British Cycling criticism

Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish
Pendleton and Varnish competed together in the team sprint at London 2012

Jess Varnish says she spoke out against British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton with the hope of changing attitudes at the organisation.

The 25-year-old, recently dropped from the Great Britain team, alleged that Sutton made sexist comments and told her to "go and have a baby".

"I want to change the culture and their treatment of women," she said.

"I hope by shining a light and sharing my experiences, the relevant people can investigate and make changes."

UK Sport, which funds British Cycling's elite performance programmes, said it had been in contact with British Cycling to ensure the allegations were investigated.

"We take allegations of sexism extremely seriously," it said. "As a recipient of funding, British Cycling should assure us this will be dealt with fairly, swiftly and transparently.

"We expect the highest levels of professionalism from athletes and staff and have zero tolerance to sexist behaviour."

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

A British Cycling spokesman said: "A gold medal is valued by us, no matter who wins it and we are equally proud of all our Olympic and world champions."

He added that medals won by the Great Britain cycling team are "testament firstly to the dedication and talent of our riders" but also a "tribute to a significant investment in passion, commitment and resources by our performance staff".

Sutton, 58, denies any wrongdoing and says British Cycling did not renew her contract because her times had slowed over the past three years.

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Varnish added: "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."

The Worcestershire-born rider also said she would like to compete for Britain again, adding that she was not too old and "not a waste of UK Sport's money".

Earlier, Olympic champions Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke both criticised British Cycling following Varnish's claims.

"I know exactly how miserable they made me," two-time Olympic gold medallist Pendleton told the Daily Telegraph.

"I never really felt I had the same respect as my male team-mates."

Cooke, the 2008 Olympic road race champion, told the Guardian: "I have my own experiences of Shane and sympathise with Jess.

"Speak out and your dreams will be destroyed and years of hard work wasted. Or put up with it and hope."

"I spoke out from the age of 19 and I know what happens."

Olympic gold medallist Joanna Rowsell Shand said on Monday that she was "surprised" at Varnish's claims of sexism.

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