UK Sport has waded into the Jess Varnish sexism row with British Cycling by insisting that as a recipient of its funding the governing body must ensure her allegations are investigated thoroughly.
Varnish accused British Cycling of sexism after she was dropped from the Great Britain team for this year’s Olympic Games, claiming that technical director Shane Sutton said she “should just move on and go and have a baby”.
“We take allegations of sexism very seriously and have been in contact with British Cycling to ensure this is investigated,” said a UK Sport spokesperson yesterday.
“As a recipient of funding, British Cycling should assure us this will be dealt with fairly, swiftly and transparently. We expect the highest levels of professionalism from athletes and staff and have zero tolerance to sexist behaviour.”
British Cycling maintains the decision to drop Varnish was made solely on performance grounds. “There is no point carrying on wasting UK Sport’s money on someone who is not going to medal going forward,” said Sutton.
Varnish confirmed yesterday that she intends to pursue a formal complaint against Sutton, and criticised “a culture of fear” which she believes has been allowed to develop within British Cycling.
“I have asked them [British Cycling] to share with me the code of conduct they implement alongside the athlete agreement we sign and also what processes are open to me as a member of British Cycling to pursue my complaints regarding Shane Sutton,” said Varnish.
“I want to change the culture and their treatment of women. I hope by shining a light and sharing my experiences, the relevant people can investigate and make changes.”
Olympic champions Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke have both spoken out in favour of Varnish and criticised British Cycling, sympathising with the 25-year-old’s stance against alleged gender inequality within the organisation.