The legal case between Olympic cyclist Jess Varnish and UK Sport could have a big impact on athletes in other sports, according to her lawyers.
Varnish has taken British Cycling and UK Sport to an employment tribunal after she was dropped from the elite programme in 2016.
The 28-year-old claims she was unfairly dismissed, with the case to be heard at Manchester Employment Tribunal from December 10-17.
Varnish’s hearing will decide if she was self-employed or an employee as an athlete receiving UK Sport funding.
Her lawyer, Simon Fenton said that the case could impact athletes across sport.
Fenton, a partner at Constantine Law, said: “The purpose of demonstrating that UK Sport-funded athletes should be regarded as employees or workers is to ensure that all athletes in the future will have protection from bullying and discrimination, be subject to income tax and receive full state pension allowances.”
He added that it would ensure UK Sport presides over a more “positive and egalitarian environment.”
Varnish was pulled from British Cycling’s elite programme in April 2016, shortly before she publicly alleged sexual discrimination by former technical director Shane Sutton.
Sutton denied the allegations but an internal investigation upheld that he used “inappropriate and discriminatory language” towards Varnish.
The full report has not been published, but it later emerged that only one of nine complaints against Sutton was upheld.
He resigned from his post in 2016 and later took up a role with the Chinese national track squad.
If the employment tribunal rules Varnish is an employee, it will open up the possibility of pursuing a sex discrimination claim against British Cycling and UK Sport.
The case has been compared to the 1995 Bosman ruling in football, which allows players to move to a new club at the end of their contract without their former team receiving payment.
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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