Shane Sutton: Jess Varnish's sexism allegations upheld by British Cycling

Jess Varnish and Shane Sutton
Varnish and Sutton worked together on the Great Britain track cycling team

Ex-British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton used sexist language towards Jess Varnish, an investigation by the governing body has found.

Rider Varnish, 25, said Sutton told her to "go and have a baby", which he denied.

Former European team sprint champion Varnish said she was "relieved" at the decision.

Australian Sutton, 59, resigned in April, having been suspended pending the investigation.

Varnish said: "I spoke out because I wanted to shine a light on the culture at British Cycling, a culture that in my mind was incorrect.

"I've always believed in standing up for yourself, especially when you know things are wrong.

"It wasn't easy for me to talk about this experience and I could've quite easily said and done nothing, but that isn't me.

"I've always given 100% to my sport, and am still in love with cycling, so I hope that British Cycling can use this investigation as a way to improve and create a better environment for the Great Britain team."

The British Cycling board upheld the allegation that Sutton "used inappropriate and discriminatory language".

A statement read: "The board wishes to put on record its sincere regret that this happened."

Its report will inform the ongoing independent UK Sport review into the culture of British Cycling's world-class performance programme, which is due to announce its findings in the next few weeks.

Varnish, who has won medals at the Commonwealth Games and European and World Championships, failed to qualify for the Olympic team sprint in March and was subsequently dropped from the world class programme.

She claimed in an interview with the Daily Mail in April that she had "a list as long as my arm about comments I've had about my figure and it's not right".

Sutton said Varnish's contract was not renewed because her times had slowed over the past three years and she was "not up to the job".

Friday's decision almost certainly ends any hope that Sutton had of returning to a formal role with British Cycling.

He was made British Cycling technical director in 2014 when predecessor Sir Dave Brailsford stepped down after a decade in charge.


BBC sports editor Dan Roan

Having announced the departure of their chief executive last week, this decision raises yet more awkward questions for one of the country's best funded and most successful sports governing bodies:

  • How will the British cycling team fare without the coach credited with helping it win so many medals?
  • What will the UK Sport independent inquiry into the culture at British Cycling conclude?
  • Did Sutton receive a pay-off when he resigned in April?
  • In the midst of a UK Anti-Doping investigation into British Cycling and Team Sky, what will Sutton's next move be now that his hopes of clearing his name have been dashed?

Who is Shane Sutton?

Sutton and Hoy embrace during the 2012 Games in London
Sutton and Sir Chris Hoy embrace during the 2012 Olympics in London

Sutton, who won Commonwealth gold as a rider, joined British Cycling as a coach in 2002.

He was part of the team that won seven track gold medals at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, before being promoted following Brailsford's departure in 2014.

In 2009, British cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy, who went on to win six Olympic gold medals, described Sutton as his mentor and said he had been "hugely influential in my success".

He said Sutton, who also mentored Britain's most decorated Olympian Sir Bradley Wiggins, is "so intense that there are times that the only thing you can do is fall out with him".

Hoy added: "Half the time you want to throttle the guy and the other half you are trying to get into his good books."

Key dates in Sutton's career:

  • 1978: Wins track team pursuit gold at Commonwealth Games
  • 1984: Moves to Great Britain
  • 1990: Wins Milk Race (now Tour of Britain)
  • 2002: Joins British Cycling as coach
  • 2008: Wins coach of the year award
  • 2010: Awarded OBE in Queen's birthday honours list
  • 2012: Diagnosed with bleeding on the brain after a bike crash in Manchester
  • 2014: Appointed technical director of British Cycling after Brailsford leaves

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