Jess Varnish appeal hearing in British Cycling case to be held next week

The former Olympic cyclist argues she should be considered an employee of British Cycling so she can sue for wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination

Jess Varnish’s appeal hearing in her employment case against British Cycling is set to be held next week.

The former Olympic cyclist lost her initial case where she argued she should be considered an employee of British Cycling or the funding agency UK Sport in January 2019 but won the right to an appeal in December later that year.

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Varnish was dropped from the track programme ahead of the Rio 2016 Games and the 29-year-old attempted to prove in court she was an employee so she could sue both British Cycling and UK Sport for wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination.

However, the initial hearing ruled her funding was more like a university grant than an employer/employee relationship.

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This appeal hearing will be held in public via web link on Tuesday and Wednesday and the judgement could take three to 10 weeks to be published.

If the decision is overturned, Varnish would then be able to initiate proceedings against British Cycling, although the organisation could then appeal the decision to overturn the appeal. A third possible outcome of the appeal hearing is that a second tribunal needs to take place, which would see three judges make up the panel rather than just one.

Varnish said in December: “We could easily have walked away after the original decision went against us. However, I believe we’re doing the right thing by not giving up.”

Varnish’s claims include arguing British Cycling had “extreme control” over her and other athletes, that she was discriminated against by former coach Shane Sutton and that she suffered for being a whistleblower against the national federation.



“I want to give athletes an opportunity to hold to account employees of governing bodies, who they interact with on a daily basis, and have significant control over their careers and opportunities,” Varnish said after she won the right to an appeal.

“I continue to think it’s unfair that athletes still have no structured means to do this, and I hope this appeal will be the first step towards affecting change, and bring about a fairer, more modern high performance system in the UK where athlete welfare is not just a soundbite, but something that we all believe in.”