Exclusive: Jess Varnish appeal to be heard next week

Ben Rumsby
The Telegraph
Jess Varnish - PA
Jess Varnish - PA

Jess Varnish’s appeal in her landmark legal battle against British Cycling will be heard next week, Telegraph Sport can reveal.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal will stage a public hearing via webinar on Tuesday and Wednesday into the former track cyclist’s dispute with the governing body, which could have significant consequences for the status of Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Varnish, 29, is arguing she should have been considered an employee of British Cycling or the funding agency UK Sport when she was controversially dropped from the elite programme for the 2016 Olympics.

A tribunal ruled against her in January of last year but in December she won the right to appeal after initially being blocked from doing so.

The judge at the original tribunal agreed with the governing bodies that the Lottery funding provided to athletes such as Varnish made them more akin to students receiving grants than employees.

The new appeal hearing could order a new tribunal to take place or overturn the decision of the original one, which would set an important precedent regarding state-funded athletes’ employment status.

“We could easily have walked away after the original decision went against us. However, I believe we’re doing the right thing by not giving up,” Varnish said in December.

“I want to give athletes an opportunity to hold to account employees of governing bodies, who they interact with on a daily basis, and have significant control over their careers and opportunities.

“I continue to think it’s unfair that athletes still have no structured means to do this, and I hope this appeal will be the first step towards affecting change, and bring about a fairer, more modern, high-performance system in the UK where athlete welfare is not just a soundbite, but something that we all believe in.”

Varnish, the former European track champion, was dropped from the team shortly after she and Katy Marchant narrowly failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics 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.

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

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