Wiggins ‘jiffy-bag’ doctor to give evidence at Varnish tribunal

Jess Varnish

Varnish is a European gold medallist in the women’s team sprint

Jess Varnish will call British Cycling’s controversial former chief medic Dr Richard Freeman to give evidence to a tribunal on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old sprinter’s case against British Cycling and UK Sport is set to begin as she claims unfair dismissal.

The tribunal will consider if, as an athlete in receipt of UK Sport funding, she was self-employed or an employee.

Should it be ruled that Varnish was an employee, the parties would reconvene for a tribunal in 2019.

The hearing in Manchester is expected to last until 17 December.

Freeman, who is the subject of a General Medical Council investigation, is one of three witnesses Varnish is set to call to give evidence. The others are her boyfriend and ex-GB BMX champion Liam Phillips and her agent James Harper.

Freeman was the doctor who received a ‘mystery package’ for Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2011. He denied any wrongdoing in an interview with BBC Sport in July and he resigned from British Cycling because of ill health in October 2017.

Simon Fenton, representing Varnish, said her case is “she was an employee (or worker), with the right not to be discriminated against”.

He added: “This case comes in a line of decisions from the cases of Uber, Addison Lee and Pimlico Plumbers which show how tribunals are looking at what actually happened in practice rather than simply accepting what is said in the contractual documentation. And they are deciding that the individuals are workers.”

On Monday both sides in the dispute spent the first day of their employment tribunal reading each others’ paperwork, with Varnish’s camp receiving 4,000 pages of documents from their opponents on Sunday.

Varnish was omitted following the 2016 Track Cycling World Championships in London, after the two-woman, two-rider team sprint squad she was part of failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

She alleged sex discrimination against Shane Sutton, then the technical director of British Cycling, who was found to have used sexist language towards her.

Sutton resigned but was later cleared of eight of nine allegations.

A UK Sport spokesperson told BBC Sport the organisation had been “advised that we are unable to comment while these legal proceedings are taking place”.

British Cycling said it had no comment to make before the hearing.


Dan Roan, BBC sports editor

Varnish will call three witnesses as she and her lawyers try to show that she was subject to the kind of control and restrictions that meant she was effectively an employee of British Cycling – and that she was the victim of discrimination

This could be just as important a landmark case to British Olympic and Paralympic sport as the Bosman ruling was to football back in 1995 when it allowed players to be free agents after their contracts expired

If the tribunal finds in Varnish’s favour, not only could she be awarded compensation for lost earnings – it may have major repercussions for hundreds of other athletes. UK Sport may become liable for backdated pensions and tax contributions of other athletes – and then have to cut the numbers who receive support. UK Sport currently treats athlete funds as if they are student grants – with no tax having to be paid. But all that could change if Varnish prevails.

In terms of medals, the current funding system has proved highly successful, but critics say it leaves athletes too vulnerable, and it is now under threat like never before.

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UCI Track World Cup: Laura Kenny and Emily Nelson claim final day gold

Emily Nelson and Laura Kenny

Emily Nelson and Laura Kenny both won two gold medals in Germany

Britain’s Laura Kenny and Emily Nelson claimed madison gold on the final day of the UCI Track World Cup in Berlin.

Four-time Olympic champion Kenny was a late replacement after Katie Archibald withdrew following her omnium crash during her gold medal win on Saturday.

Kenny and Nelson had Britain’s sole podium finish on the final day in Germany – and the fifth of the weekend.

Sunday’s race was halted temporarily with 54 laps to go after a crash involving Italy’s Letizia Paternoster.

Paternoster was taken to hospital after receiving medical treatment trackside and when racing resumed, Kenny and Nelson consistently scored highly in the sprints.

In the closing moments, Danish duo Julie Leth and Trine Schmidt took a lap to go top of the leaderboard but the British pair secured the double points victory on the final sprint to finish on 37, nine points clear.

It added to the gold they won as part of the women’s team pursuit and as well as Archibald’s gold, there was silver in the men’s team sprint and for Ollie Wood and Mark Stewart in the madison.

Wood finished 11th in the omnium after an early exit in the elimination in the second session.

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Tour de Yorkshire to use Worlds circuit in Harrogate

American Megan Guarnier raises her hands in celebration as she crosses the line after winning the 2018 women's Tour de Yorkshire

American Megan Guarnier won the 2018 women’s Tour de Yorkshire with victory on stage two in Ilkley

The 2019 men’s and women’s Tour de Yorkshire will include the circuit being used for next year’s Road World Championships races in Harrogate.

Both pelotons will cover the 14km (8.7 miles) circuit during a 132km route from Barnsley to Bedale.

It will be the second of four stages in the men’s race, which runs from 2-5 May, and first of two for the women.

“With the Worlds in Yorkshire, we’re expecting our strongest field,” said race organiser Sir Gary Verity.

“This will be the only chance the riders get to sample the Harrogate circuit under race conditions.

“I’m also proud that we’re continuing to lead the way when it comes to promoting women’s cycling. Changing the start of the women’s race from Thursday to Friday should guarantee greater exposure and the routes for the two stages are now exactly the same as the men’s.”

Christian Prudhomme, ASO’s Tour de France director, added: “Including the Harrogate circuit gives the race an added dimension and we want ‘The Yorkshire Classic’ stage of the men’s race (stage four) to become one of the most anticipated dates on the professional cycling calendar.”

The stages

  • Thursday, 2 May: Men’s stage one – Doncaster to Selby (178.5km)
  • Friday, 3 May: Men’s stage two / women’s stage one – Barnsley to Bedale (132km)
  • Saturday, 4 May: Men’s stage three / women’s stage two – Bridlington to Scarborough (132km)
  • Sunday, 5 May: Men’s stage four – Halifax to Leeds (175km)

The Tour de Yorkshire was upgraded by cycling’s governing body, the UCI, in October to HC status for the 2019 edition – the highest category for a multi-day race outside of the UCI WorldTour.

The women’s Tour de Yorkshire moved to a multi-stage event for the first time this year, having been run as a one-day race for its first two editions.

American Megan Guarnier won the 2018 race, with Olympic road race champion Greg van Avermaet claiming the men’s event.

The 2019 Road World Championships will run from 21-29 September.

The elite men’s road race will feature seven laps of the finishing circuit in Harrogate, with the elite women covering three laps.


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Armstrong says returns from Uber investment ‘saved’ his family

Lance Armstrong holds up seven fingers while wearing the yellow jersey in 2005 to signify the seven Tour de France titles he was later stripped of

Lance Armstrong invested in Uber during his comeback to cycling after initially retiring in 2005

Lance Armstrong says an early investment in Uber has “saved” his family after paying out $111m (£86.8m) in legal fees and settlements.

The American, 47, was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life in 2012 before admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs.

He says he gave $100,000 (£78,212) to a venture capital fund that invested in the ride-hailing app in 2010.

“It’s saved our family,” he told CNBC.

In April, Armstrong agreed to pay $5m (£3.9m) to the US government to settle a long-running lawsuit that could have cost him $100m (£78m) in damages.

However, he said he felt he did not “get off scot free” as other settlements and legal fees meant he had to pay $111m in total.

Armstrong, who has five children, did not say how much he had earned from his Uber investment but added it was “too good to be true”.

He said Uber, which was founded in 2009, was valued at $3.7m (£2.9m) when he invested. The company was valued at $72bn (£56bn) this year and is targeting a valuation of $120bn (£94bn) in 2019.

When asked if he had earned “10, 20, 30, 40 or $50m”, Armstrong replied: “It’s one of those.”

He added that he did not even know he was investing in Uber when he gave the money to associate and entrepreneur Chris Sacca, who started Lowercase Capital in 2010.

‘The way I acted was my undoing’

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Armstrong on drugs, history and the future

Armstrong retired after winning seven straight Tour titles from 1999 to 2005, finishing third in his comeback in 2009 before retiring again in 2011.

The US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) subsequently found Armstrong had led “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”, with the Texan admitting in 2013 he had used drugs throughout his career.

Yet Armstrong said it was how he conducted himself and not just the fact he cheated that led to his downfall.

“Most people have enough history and knowledge to know everybody did it [doping],” he said.

“That isn’t the issue for people – the issue is how aggressively I defended myself, being litigious, going after people.”

Armstrong agreed a settlement with The Sunday Times in 2013 having previously been paid to settle a libel case in 2004 after the newspaper alleged he had cheated.

“Whether or not I would do it all over again – what I would rather do is go back and win seven in a row against everybody else that’s drinking water and eating bread,” he said.

“Even if I did all that [doping] but I was a gentleman and I had class and dignity and treated people with respect, they would’ve let me off.

“Nobody would’ve come after me. I insist that it was the way I acted that was my undoing.”

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London 2012 gold medallist Rowe retires

Dani Rowe, Laura Kenny and Jo Rowsell Shand

Dani Rowe (left) won Olympic team pursuit gold with Laura Kenny and Joanna Rowsell Shand in 2012

London 2012 gold medallist Dani Rowe has announced her retirement from cycling.

The Briton, 28, won team pursuit gold at London 2012 and three consecutive World Championship titles in the event between 2011 and 2013.

More recently a road racer, Rowe – formerly King – won bronze at April’s Commonwealth Games.

“Today marks both the end of one chapter in my career, and the start of a new one,” she said.

“After 14 years of dedicating my life to a bike I’ve decided to go out on a high after the satisfaction of achieving everything and more in the sport that I ever set out to.”

Rowe – who is also a two-time European team pursuit champion – won her Olympic gold alongside Laura Kenny and Joanna Rowsell Shand.

Originally from Hamble, Hampshire, she competed for England at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but switched her allegiances to Wales in 2017 after marrying fellow cyclist Matt Rowe.

“I feel that it would have been an easier decision to carry on cycling, as it’s something that’s defined me since the age of 14,” she added.

“It’s a scary world outside of professional sport but one I’m willing to jump into with open arms, taking opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to when cycling.”

British Cycling performance director Stephen Park said: “Dani’s achievements and medal record are there for all to see, but for those who have worked closely with her, she has been not only a wonderfully talented bike rider, but also a true team player who has possessed all the qualities a coach could ask for in a rider.

“Her fighting spirit and resilience have been evident at various points during her career and, throughout her impressive list of achievements, her attitude has been exemplary.

“She’s been a true role model for the younger members of the squad and, I’m sure, for many, many other riders who have watched from afar.

“This natural talent for mentoring and developing young riders has shone through, and will continue to stand Dani – and those she works with – in good stead going forward. Dani is keen to stay involved with British Cycling and the sport as a whole, which will be valuable to all parties.”

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