Varnish loses British Cycling employment tribunal appeal

Varnish won gold in the team sprint at the 2011 European Track Championships

Former Great Britain cyclist Jess Varnish’s appeal against an employment tribunal ruling has been dismissed.

The 29-year-old lost her initial employment case against British Cycling in January 2019, which ruled that the relationship between athlete and governing body was more akin to a student receiving a grant than an employer/employee arrangement.

She won the right to an appeal in December last year, and her appeal was heard in May, but Mr Justice Choudhury has ruled that the initial tribunal’s decision was correct.

The written judgement stated: “The tribunal was entitled to conclude, based on an evaluative judgement taking account of all relevant factors, that the claimant was not an employee or a worker.

“The tribunal had not erred in its approach to the assessment of employee status and nor had it reached conclusions that no reasonable tribunal, properly directed, could have reached.”

Former European track champion Varnish originally brought a case against British Cycling after she was dropped from the team when she and Katy Marchant narrowly failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics in the team sprint.

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

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.

A witness statement from former British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman, which was referenced in November 2019 at his own fitness-to-practise medical tribunal, alleged 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 he refused to do so.

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