Monthly Archives: February 2017

Jess Varnish: British cyclist wants to resume career after Shane Sutton controversy

Jessica Varnish and Shane Sutton

Shane Sutton (right) pushes Varnish off the start line at the 2011 European Championships

Track cyclist Jess Varnish has not given up hope of resuming her career, according to her lawyer.

Varnish, 26, was dropped from British Cycling’s elite programme last April, after which former technical director Shane Sutton was found to have used sexist language towards her.

Sutton was later cleared of eight of nine allegations.

However, lawyer Simon Fenton told BBC Sport that Varnish now “wants the possibility of winning gold medals”.

He also described Varnish’s attempts to discover why she was dropped from British Cycling’s elite programme as “incredibly frustrating”.

And he was critical of British Cycling, saying the governing body had been “anything but open”.

“It’s been incredibly frustrating,” said Fenton. “We’ve had so much back from them late and heavily redacted.

“We wanted to know why she was hoofed off the Olympic podium programme and they’re claiming confidentiality as a reason for not telling us.

“If we want to force disclosure we now have to take legal proceedings, but British Cycling’s pockets are a lot deeper than Jess’.

“We believe the information is in there somewhere which says that she was not taken off the programme for performance reasons, but because she spoke out.”

‘We believe the information is in there’

In December, Varnish demanded the release of her personal data to try to understand why an internal review had reached their decisions about her case.

British Cycling had found that Sutton had used the word “bitches” to Varnish, but the rest of her allegations – including a claim that he told her to “go and have a baby” – were not upheld.

Varnish said she was “shocked and upset” by British Cycling’s decision on the majority of her complaints.

Under the Data Protection Act, she requested access to text messages and British Cycling’s report into Sutton’s conduct.

In a statement given to BBC Sport, British Cycling said they had “complied” with that request.

They added: “The board put on record its sincere regret that this happened and are committed to ensuring the findings of the investigation will help the development of the organisation alongside the independent review into the culture of the World Class Programme.”

‘This looked rushed’


Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton raced in the team sprint at London 2012

Varnish raced alongside Victoria Pendleton in the team sprint at London 2012, but failed to qualify for Rio 2016.

The World Championships medallist said that bosses at cycling’s governing body were to blame for her and Katy Marchant not securing a team sprint spot at the Games. She added that their chances had been compromised by decisions over selection.

She was dropped from British Cycling’s elite programme in April with Sutton telling the Daily Telegraph at the time that “there is no point carrying on and wasting UK Sport’s money on someone who is not going to medal going forward”.

Sutton resigned in April last year, after being suspended pending the investigation, but has always denied wrongdoing.

“From reading what we have been sent, we have the impression that there were not sufficient performance reasons to remove her and that to other riders it was a surprise and looked like a political removal,” added Fenton.

“Normally when people are taken off the programme, it’s done in a structured way. This looked rushed.

“She wants to make sure no-one else goes through what she went through without any due process or warning.”

‘Action plan’ of reforms

Fenton’s comments come as British Cycling prepares to brief riders and staff about an ‘action plan’ of reforms following concerns over the culture at its performance programme.

After Varnish’s claims of a ‘culture of fear’ were supported by other former riders, British Rowing chair Annamarie Phelps was asked to lead an independent investigation into claims of bullying, favouritism and sexism.

Her report – described by one senior source as “explosive” – is due to be published in the next month.

On 21 February, the head of UK Sport, Liz Nicholl, accused British Cycling of watering down the full findings of an internal review conducted after the 2012 Games.

UK Sport has faced questions over why it did not act on a report that is known to include allegations of bullying.

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Laura & Jason Kenny expecting first child

Jason and Laura Kenny

Jason and Laura Kenny have 10 Olympic gold medals between them

Britain’s Olympic champions Jason and Laura Kenny are expecting their first child, the couple’s agent confirmed.

Four-time Olympic gold medallist Laura Kenny, 24, revealed the news with a post on Instagram of two adult bikes lined up alongside a child’s bike.

Husband Jason added his own post on Twitter, while Great Britain team-mate Dani King tweeted “best news ever”.

Agent Luke Lloyd-Davies said the couple and their families are “absolutely thrilled and delighted with the news”.

“They very much appreciate all the kind wishes and messages of support that they have received already,” he added.

The couple, who married in September in a private ceremony, went public with the news following their 12-week scan.

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Jason, 28, has won six track cycling Olympic gold medals, including three at last summer’s Games in Rio.

Laura pulled out of last month’s National Track Championships after injuring a hamstring, but said at the time she hoped to be fit for April’s World Championships in Hong Kong

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Track Cycling World Cup: Mark Downey wins points race gold in Colombia

Mark Downey

Mark Downey completed back-to-back wins in World Cup points races

Northern Ireland’s Mark Downey has won the men’s points race in the third round of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Colombia.

The 20-year-old, from County Down, dominated the race and is now leading the World Cup ranking in the event.

He has secured back-to-back gold medals after winning the points race in the second World Cup round in Apeldoorn.

“This one means a lot more to me than Apeldoorn because of the fashion in which I won,” said Downey.

“It was my first time racing at altitude so I needed to be careful.

“My pre-race tactic was to chill for 30 to 40 laps and then to come to the front and turn the gas on. I made three key moves in the race.”

Ireland’s Lydia Boylan was sixth in the Women’s Omnium, having made a blistering start by winning the first event, the scratch race.


Downey celebrated his success with the crown at the Alcides Nieto Patino Velodrome in Cali

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British Cycling ‘misled UK Sport’ over report

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‘No indication of King report significance’

British Cycling has been accused of watering down the findings of an internal review in 2012 by the chief executive of UK Sport.

Liz Nicholl said the governing body “fed a very light-touch version” to the funding agency.

Former British Cycling chief executive Peter King took anonymous statements from 40 personnel as part of a report that was never made public.

“We didn’t receive the King report,” Nicholl told BBC Sport.

“We were given to believe that… actually we had a very light-touch version of it fed to us at UK Sport, so we had no indication of the significance of that report.

“It’s only now come to light.”

Speaking to national newspapers, Nicholl confirmed she considered it to effectively be a cover-up, adding: “That’s a complete lack of transparency and that’s a relationship that is not acceptable in terms of what was shared with us as opposed to what the actual facts of that report were.”

UK Sport have faced questions over why they did not act on a report that is known to include allegations of bullying.

Nicholls’ incendiary comments come as the country’s most successful and best-funded sports governing body braces itself for the publication of another report into alleged bullying, favouritism and sexism, led by British Rowing chair Annamarie Phelps.

Publication is expected in the next month.

King report ‘had guarantee of anonymity’

Former British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake commissioned the King report in September 2012 but left the organisation in January, three months earlier than planned. He could not be reached for comment.

UCI president Brian Cookson, who was president of British Cycling when King delivered the report in December 2012, said he would not comment until the Phelps report was published.

UK Sport are currently considering whether to help fund Cookson’s re-election campaign, having contributed £77,000 in 2013.

King told BBC Sport he was “disappointed” to hear Nicholl say she never saw his full report.

In a statement, British Cycling said: “Contributions were made with a guarantee of anonymity, so key findings and recommendations were shared in briefings with UK Sport and the British Cycling board.

“The full report was also made available to the 2016 independent review, jointly commissioned by UK Sport and British Cycling in April last year, of the world class programme.”


The background

The current Phelps inquiry was jointly commissioned by UK Sport and British Cycling following allegations of sexism and bullying made by rider Jess Varnish against former technical director Shane Sutton.

Varnish claimed the coach had used sexist and discriminatory language when dropping her from the Olympic programme, something he strongly denies.

In October, Sutton resigned and was found guilty of one charge of using inappropriate language by an internal review.

A number of other riders and former staff members have backed Varnish’s portrayal of “a culture of fear” within British Cycling, including former road world champion Nicole Cooke, who told a parliamentary select committee that it was a sport “run by men, for men”.

Former performance director Sir Dave Brailsford has insisted he ran a regime that was “not sexist but definitely medallist”.

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Sutton resigns amid discrimination row

“All those views are being taken into account through the review,” said Nicholl.

“It’s fair to say that the high-performance system here is pretty male-dominated. There aren’t very many female coaches and there’s an opportunity to address that in future, and to get a better balance to support athletes in a way that athletes of today want to be supported.

“Athletes have moved on and maybe the programmes haven’t moved on as fast as they should have done, but what we see is an opportunity.”

‘There’s no excuse for not putting athletes first’

The legally sensitive nature of Phelps’ report has meant it has been delayed, with fears it could be heavily redacted to protect witness confidentiality.

Those who gave evidence are now being asked how much of their testimony can be revealed, while those criticised have an opportunity to respond.

Publication could take another month, but on 1 March British Cycling will brief staff and riders on an “action plan” – effectively its response to the report and concerns over the way it operates.

This will include greater oversight of its high-performance programme, and more consideration of athlete welfare.

“There’s no excuse for not addressing duty of care responsibilities to athletes,” said Nicholls. “There’s no excuse for not putting athletes first.

“They are are the ones who’ll deliver the medals and every programme should be trying to ensure they have happy and successful athletes and there probably hasn’t been enough attention in sport about how they do things.

“There’s a lot of focus on operational delivery, probably not enough on leadership management and communication.”

Nicholl told the BBC that she would be “clear about the actions that UK Sport and British Cycling need to take”.

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Lance Armstrong: Banned cyclist faces November trial in £79m US lawsuit

Lance Armstrong

Armstrong’s legal team had wanted the trial postponed until 2018 because of a potential scheduling conflict

Banned cyclist Lance Armstrong’s fight against a $100m (£79m) lawsuit by the US government has been set for a trial starting in Washington on 6 November.

He is accused of fraud by cheating while riding for the publicly funded US Postal Service team.

The lawsuit was filed by Armstrong’s former team-mate Floyd Landis before being joined by the government in 2013.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life in August 2012.

The 45-year-old won the seven titles between 1999 and 2005. The US Postal Service sponsored the team between 1996 and 2004.

Armstrong admitted to using drugs in all seven of his Tour wins in January 2013 while Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for failing a doping test.

The government wants Armstrong to pay back money the US Postal Service paid his team for sponsorship, plus triple damages.

Landis could collect up to 25% of any damages awarded.

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Johnny’s favourite stores