Jess Varnish 'insulted' as she considers legal action after 'laughable' British Cycling report

Former British Cycling coach Ken Matheson joins criticism over "whitewashed" report

Jess Varnish says that her legal team are looking at taking action over the independent report in alleged bullying and discrimination at British Cycling.

Varnish, whose dismissal from British Cycling's World Class Programme was described in a leaked draft version of the report as "an act of retribution" (a phrase which was removed from the final version published on Wednesday), said that that she found it laughable that she was seen as a "ringleader" by some members of staff.

"I am insulted. In a way I’m glad they have used this language because it shows what the people are like in there [British Cycling]," the sprinter told The Times (opens in new tab).

"Anyone who knows me knows I am not a troublemaker or ringleader. No one has ever been removed from the programme the way I was."

Varnish was dismissed from the team in April 2016, later claiming that she had been the subject of sexist and discriminatory language from then technical director Shane Sutton. Those claims were upheld by British Cycling in October, but a leaked BC report suggests that Sutton was cleared of eight of the nine accusations of discriminatory language made against him.

The Cycling Independent Review (CIR) released on Wednesday differed significantly from a draft version that was leaked to the Daily Mail in March, before a process called Maxwellisation, whereby persons and bodies criticised in a report are allowed to respond, had taken place.

The final version of the report removed many of the most damning criticisms of British Cycling and people within it, including strong criticism of former BC performance director and current Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford.

Former British Cycling coach Ken Matheson, who said in December that he had considered suicide under Brailsford's "brutal regime" and contributed evidence, strongly criticised the final report.

"I would say it is a whitewash," he said. "The whole purpose of this review was to get to the truth and I’m not sure we have. This is an organisation that has been sick for an awful long time. I feel I have totally wasted my time."

However Annamarie Phelps, the British Rowing chair who headed up the CIR, defending the review, specifically the decision not to include the word bullying.

"When we were talking to people, they rarely said, ‘I’ve been bullied,' " she said.

"They tended to be really specific about what they had experienced and who they had experienced it from. We thought it was better to speak about specific behaviours than to use broad-brush terminology."

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Henry Robertshaw began his time at Cycling Weekly working with the tech team, writing reviews, buying guides and appearing in videos advising on how to dress for the seasons. He later moved over to the news team, where his work focused on the professional peloton as well as legislation and provision for cycling. He's since moved his career in a new direction, with a role at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.