In an interview with The Times, suspended British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton firmly denies the discrimination allegations levelled against him

Suspended British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton says he is upset by the claims of sexism and discrimination that Jess Varnish and others have made against him.

The Australian was suspended by BC on Tuesday night, pending an investigation into the claims, but in an interview with The Times Sutton insists he didn’t say any of the things alleged against him.

He denied that he told Varnish, 25, to “go and have a baby” or that she had a “fat arse”.

“I have never used the terminology, ‘You’ve got a fat arse.’ I’m just really upset she would say that,” Sutton said.

The explanation for Varnish’s departure from the Olympic programme was that her performances had not been up to scratch, with Sutton telling Cycling Weekly before his suspension that she had been on a “backwards trajectory” since London 2012.

The straight-talking 58-year-old summed it up pretty bluntly to The Times.

“Someone who wasn’t up to the job has left the programme and should embrace my comments,” he said. “Jess was not one of the greats. It’s sad she’s come out and said the things she said.”

Nicole Cooke and Victoria Pendleton backed up Varnish’s claims of a sexist culture within British Cycling, with Pendleton claiming her opinions were not worth as much as those of the male cyclists in the squad.

“I find it astonishing Vicky would wade in, given that on the journey [preparing for] Beijing, I’m up until 3 o’clock in the morning decorating her house in Wilmslow,” Sutton said.

“The number of times I’ve held her in my arms in the track centre when she has capitulated. I was very supportive of her. I’m a bit hurt by the allegations given my relationship with her over the years.”

Following further claims that Sutton discriminated against para-cyclists in the Great Britain squad, British Cycling suspended the coach.

“Following the announcement of an independent review into British Cycling’s performance programmes, we are also announcing technical director Shane Sutton has been suspended pending an internal investigation into the allegations of discrimination that have been reported in the press,” a statement said.

Cycling Weekly spoke to Shane Sutton before his suspension for an interview published in the magazine, on sale on April 28.

  • Sam Hocking

    British Cycling’s women dominated 3 Olympic cycles and many riders under Sutton became a World Champion & an Olympic champion. Several multiple times – Perhaps sexism makes Champions?
    On a serious note, clearly riders feel the need to publicly air their grievances against him while the ball is rolling and perhaps is the only way anything changes, just like in the real World too.

  • ummm…

    can you link me to some articles re: how women are treated in elite cycling that can’t be explained by the profitability of it, at the moment. Thankfully womens cycling is being seen as a viable business. However, having certain anatomy doesnt allowed for carte blanche victomology.

    What comments were made to women riding up box hill? Were these comments words, or did they limit the prospects of these women? Where these men reps of official government or sporting bodies – if not what does it have to do with cycling?

    Attitudes towards women riding in clubs have only to do with certain beliefs of specific men not the cycling world – or the world at large. I’d say these women should find a new club.

    I am aware of “Sexism” in cycling stories. Many can’t stand up to strict scrutiny, but I dont believe that there aren’t these stories. Could you forward me some so I can see the systemic ill that is imposed upon women ONLY by virtue of their anatomy and not business interests etc.?

    Also dont assume I’m guilty of anything. I understand you are primed to fight the mythical misogynist, but I am not one. The worst you can say is that I’m a cynic.

  • dougles

    The disregard with which women’s elite cycling is treated (as mentioned by elite women cyclists in recent interviews), and at a club level, the comments made to women riding up box hill by men, and the attitudes women face when riding with a club.

    I’m not sure what there is to not understand. If you’re not aware of it happening then you’re either not paying attention, or guilty of it yourself.

  • ummm…

    “rampant sexism in cycling” what makes you say this is an issue? I hear this a lot but I dont quite understand it. Please explain.

  • dougles

    He also made comments about disabled athletes. Glad to see him go, he’s the last thing BC needs if it’s going to attempt to challenge the rampant sexism in cycling at pro and club level.

  • ummm…

    i understand there were numerous allegations, and in concert they add up to a loss of confidence. However, the fact that this started as a debate re: “sexism” frustrates me.

  • Patrick Crew

    He has just resigned

  • ummm…

    I lean towards believing the riders, however what Shane says, especially his words re: Victoria are really impactful. There are always conflicts in a family. Possibly he has lied or cherry picked, but do we have a real reason to believe that he didn’t serve sugar as well as salt?

  • Stiperstone

    I fear that the allegations made by various parties may have some basis in fact. Nonetheless this trial by news story is surely only going to cloud the issue and already one individual is being scape goated when he works in an organisation which must have at least tolerated the alleged behaviour.

  • Gary Jogela

    The plot thickens