Jess Varnish still hopes to compete for Great Britain, despite claiming that she was subjected to sexist comments when her contract was not renewed for the Olympic programme

Jess Varnish insists she has not given up on competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, despite being dropped from the British Cycling Olympic programme.

While BC claim she was not offered a new contract because her performance levels had dropped, the 25-year-old claims that she was subjected to sexist comments and bullying.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Varnish claimed technical director Shane Sutton told her to “go and have a baby”, while the Australian said in an interview with the Telegraph that Varnish was “too old” and “not worth wasting UK Sport’s money”.

“The comment that Shane Sutton told me ’to go and have a baby’ is true,” Varnish said in a statement on Tuesday. “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.”

Varnish was critical of BC management in the aftermath of Great Britain’s failure to qualify for the team sprint at Rio 2016, claiming that poor selections for big events cost them qualification points.

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Sutton insisted Varnish was dropped from the Olympic programme because of her performances, not her criticism – something that Varnish finds hard to accept.

“Prior to the 2016 World Championships I was not once told that I was underperforming,” she said. “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 two 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.”

Varnish says she was told to prove British Cycling wrong and has travelled to Melbourne to continue her Olympic preparations.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

  • Michael

    Maybe Sutton was talking about berths and she thought he said births?

  • LaszloZoltan

    you can still prove everyone wrong- enter and win as many races as you can

  • dourscot

    I’d still say Varnish isn’t doing herself any favours – she started complaining after failing to get a berth in the team sprint.

    There are probably a range of factors behind an athlete falling below the required level but moaning that it’s someone else’s fault (other riders, the team setup, management) always sounds like buck passing.


    Maybe so, but for the employer do act like that is, not best practice and at worst down right disrespectful. She has a point and deserved better.

  • Edvid

    It is indeed unfortunate what James has gone through during this cycle^…and for that matter, Varnish (she’s had her own injury woes too).

    The irony of the situation is that a women’s keirin medal (for James) is a genuine possibility, yet it was thanks to Varnish that GB got the required berth (just!) in the first place.

    In spite of the team sprint fail, GB still have 2 berths in the women’s sprint – if they’re intending to fill both berths, they may as well have allowed Varnish to battle for selection with James & Marchant (IMO James would be first pick; the second pick would be a crapshoot).

    If they dropped Varnish after Rio, there wouldn’t have been *quite* as much fuss.

    [^ 2013 aside, natch]

  • dourscot

    Not really – the men’s sprint team qualified for the Rio while the women’s including Varnish didn’t. Only five European nations qualify.

    A major factor was probably the absence of Becky James.

  • Edvid

    That said, being removed from the national squad just 4 months before the Olympics is strange; you’d expect that kind to thing to happen shortly after or well before the Games.

    It’s telling that nobody was removed from the overall men’s sprint squad.

  • dourscot

    “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’s hardly set the boards light at world level since 2012 – she must have been aware she was on the line.