Jess Varnish wins right to appeal British Cycling employment case

The new hearing is set to take place in the first half of 2020

Jess Varnish (Getty)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Jess Varnish has won the right to appeal the decision in her employment case against British Cycling.

In the landmark case the 29-year-old hoped to prove she was an employee of the bodies and could thus sue them for wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination.

However, when she lost the landmark tribunal it became unlikely she would be able to take both bodies back into the courtroom.

Varnish claims that 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.

If her new chance at an appeal is successful, these claims could now eventually be argued in court. The decision means a full hearing will now take place in the first half of 2020.

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Speaking after the decision, Varnish said: "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.

"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."

Her lawyer, Simon Fenton of Constantine Law, said: "Today at the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Jess Varnish won the right to a full appeal on the question of her employment status with British Cycling.

"This is a small, but important, step in holding British Cycling to account for its treatment of her during her cycling career and its abrupt and unfair ending. Although this is a small victory, it is significant in light of the revelations from the Freeman case which raised questions of serious bullying at the heart of British Cycling."

A British Cycling spokesman commented: "The decision to contest this case has always been founded on our view that the true picture of our relationship with riders who represent this country is not one of employer-employee but that of an organisation supporting talented and dedicated athletes to achieve their best.

"This view was supported in law by the decision of the first tribunal.

"We will continue to represent what we believe are the best interests of every rider currently supported through the high performance system, and all those in our sport who hope to one day compete at an Olympics or Paralympics.

"We very much regret that Jess has been advised to pursue the route of an employment tribunal when other avenues were available to her. The culture of the Great Britain Cycling Team has changed for the better since Jess first raised what everyone recognises as legitimate concerns."

This new hearing adds more legal issues for British Cycling, as their former doctor Richard Freeman is currently undergoing a tribunal accused of ordering testosterone gel to British Cycling HQ in 2011 to be used by an athlete to dope, which he denies.

Freeman has claimed he was bullied into making the order by Sutton to treat his alleged erectile dysfunction, an accusation Sutton denies.

During cross-examination, Sutton said to Freeman's lawyer, Ms O'Rourke: "You’re saying I can’t get a hard-on in the press. My wife wants to come here and testify you’re a liar."

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