Varnish wins right to appeal hearing in employment case against British Cycling

By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter

Jess Varnish has won the right to an appeal hearing in her employment case against British Cycling, the PA news agency understands.

Lawyers representing the former Olympic cyclist attended the Employment Appeals Tribunal in London on Tuesday and Justice Eady ruled that she did have the right to appeal the decision made by a tribunal in January of this year.

Varnish, who was controversially dropped from the GB programme for the 2016 Rio Olympics, argued that she should be considered an employee of British Cycling or the funding agency UK Sport.

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Jess Varnish was controversially dropped from the GB programme for the 2016 Rio Olympics (Luke Webber/PA Images)
Jess Varnish was controversially dropped from the GB programme for the 2016 Rio Olympics (Luke Webber/PA Images)

But the judge at the original tribunal agreed with the governing bodies that the lottery funding provided to athletes like Varnish made them more akin to students receiving grants than employees.

An initial written appeal following the tribunal was rejected on the basis that there were no grounds of appeal but Tuesday’s EAT hearing means a full appeal will now be heard, possibly in May.

That appeal hearing could either overturn the decision of the first tribunal, or order a new one to take place.

Former European track champion Varnish was dropped from the team shortly after she and Katy Marchant narrowly failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Games in the team sprint.

Both criticised their coaches after their final race for mistakes made during qualification but only Varnish was let go, with British Cycling claiming it was for performance reasons.

Varnish levelled criticism at former British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton (Martin Rickett/PA)
Varnish levelled criticism at former British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton (Martin Rickett/PA)

But soon after her exit was confirmed, Varnish claimed she had been told “to go and have a baby” by British Cycling’s former technical director Shane Sutton.

If Varnish’s legal team succeeds in overturning the original tribunal decision she could sue British Cycling for discrimination.

British Cycling would have the right to appeal if the initial decision is overturned.

A witness statement from former British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman, which was referenced last month at his own fitness-to-practise medical tribunal, alleged that Sutton had asked Freeman to write a medical report justifying the Australian’s decision to leave Varnish out of the 2016 Olympic programme. Freeman’s statement said that he refused to do so.

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