British Cycling announces independent review into sexism claims

British Cycling has announced an independent review after technical director Shane Sutton was accused of sexism by rider Jess Varnish.

Cycling's national governing body on Tuesday evening announced the review, in conjunction with UK Sport, the umbrella organisation for Olympic and Paralympic sports.

Varnish on Saturday claimed Sutton told her to "go and have a baby" after she was dropped from the Great Britain cycling team. Sutton and British Cycling denied the allegations and insisted the decision was purely on performance grounds.

British Cycling announces independent review into sexism claims

But, after Olympic champions Victoria Pendleton, Nicole Cooke and multiple world champion Wendy Houvenaghel spoke out in support of Varnish on Tuesday, British Cycling acted.

A British Cycling statement read: "British Cycling is announcing the formation of an independent review, in conjunction with UK Sport, of the federation's performance programmes following allegations of discriminatory behaviour.

"We are fully committed to the principles and active promotion of equality of opportunity and we must take any such allegations seriously.

"The terms of the review will be announced in due course and no further comment will be made at this stage."

UK Sport had earlier suggested to Press Association Sport that there would be a full, independent investigation into the allegations.

Chief executive Liz Nicholl said: "UK Sport expects all athletes and support personnel to adhere to the highest levels of professionalism and conduct and have a zero tolerance approach to sexist behaviour or language.

"We have been in formal contact with British Cycling to ensure these allegations are fully investigated.

"As a recipient of world-class programme funding from UK Sport, British Cycling has a responsibility to assure us that such matters are dealt with appropriately, swiftly, fairly and transparently."

Varnish earlier on Tuesday released a statement, before travelling to Australia to continue training in the hope of returning to the British squad.

Although she admitted that looked a forlorn hope after reiterating allegations that Sutton made sexist comments after her contract was not renewed.

She said she intended to continue fighting to "change the culture" of British Cycling and its attitude towards women.

The 25-year-old sprinter also expressed dismay over British Cycling's handling of her departure, suggesting requests for detailed performance data were refused and that remarks by Sutton in the Daily Telegraph showed she would not be given the opportunity to return.

"I want a fair chance to compete for my country," she said.

"I feel that chance is being denied to me unfairly. I also want to change the culture at British Cycling and their treatment of women.

"When Shane Sutton gave his interview to the Telegraph discussing my situation I was devastated. He said in his interview that I was 'too old' and 'not worth wasting UK Sport's money'.

"It was at this point that I realised my career with British Cycling, in Shane Sutton's eyes, was over, and that I would never get a fair trial or opportunity to compete for Great Britain again while Shane is the performance director.

"The comment that Shane Sutton told me 'to go and have a baby' is true. I stand by all my statements in the Daily Mail interview and have examples of other comments made to me during my time at British Cycling by Shane Sutton dating back many years.

"At 25 years old I feel my best years are ahead of me. I also want to compete for Great Britain again. I am not too old. I am not a waste of UK Sport's money. I can win more medals."

Sutton insists the decision over Varnish's future was made purely on performance grounds and that he has acted with "complete professionalism" in all dealings with her.

But Varnish claims she has heard from others "both present and past", who have voiced their own concerns over treatment.

"I am not alone in my experience and I'm glad that a few feel more confident to speak up as a result of my interview," she added.

"I hope that by shining a light on this culture, and sharing my experiences, the relevant people can investigate and make changes."

Pendleton, Varnish's sprint partner at London 2012, had earlier voiced her support in a Daily Telegraph article.

The two-time Olympic champion said: "I would not be able to live with myself if I sat back and let people try to discredit (Varnish's) character. Not when I wholeheartedly believe her.

"My experiences were very similar. And I know exactly how miserable they made me."

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