April 27, 2016

British Cycling Chief in discrimination row

Shane Sutton, the Australian Technical Director of British Cycling, has been suspended because of discrimination allegations by a female team member.

Mr Sutton has been suspended whilst an investigation in to comments he made to a female cyclist is completed.

The female cyclist, Jess Varnish said that Sutton had made sexist and discriminatory comments towards her and on one occasion had told her to “go and have a baby”.

Sutton, who has been a GB Cycling Coach for over 14 years has denied the allegations which also includes comments about Ms Varnish’s appearance and body shape.

Ms Varnish’s contract was not renewed by GB Cycling as her times had slowed significantly over the past 3 years leading them to believe she was highly unlikely to win a medal.

In comments to The Times, Mr Sutton said that Varnish was “not up to the job”. Mr Sutton claims that there was never any talk of babies. He said “Jess was not one of the greats. It’s sad she’s come out and said the things she said.”

Mr Sutton said he was also upset that Varnish had claimed that he used the phrase “you’ve got a fat arse” directly to her, which he denies doing.

British Cycling has now begun an independent review into the way it manages performance following the comments from Varnish.

Darren Kenny, one of Britain’s most successful para-cyclists claims he heard fellow members of the British disability team being spoken about in a highly unprofessional and derogatory way.

Kenny, the winner of six gold medals from the Paralympics said “The attitude towards them was abysmal”. Kenny went on to say, “We were tolerated at best. The term used to refer to us was generally ‘gimps’, with another word in front of that.”

Ms Varnish was dropped by British cycling after she failed to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio and has said that she is happy to meet with the equalities officer at British cycling to discuss what happened in more detail.

Other cyclists have decided to back Varnish’s claims and have said that the culture within the cycling team was more focused on the male team with the female team being seen as unimportant and second rate.

Two former Olympic gold medallists agree with Varnish tale and have been highly critical of British cycling.  Victoria Pendleton, a 2012 London Gold Medallist said: “I know exactly how miserable they made me, I never really felt I had the same respect as my male team-mates.”

Nicole Cooke, another Olympic Gold medal winner said “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.”

There were a number of riders that came out in support of Sutton, including Joanna Rowsell, who said she was ‘surprised’ by the allegations against Mr Sutton and she felt that male and female cyclists were treated ‘equally’.

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