Sutton denied the allegation and said Varnish was dropped from the squad in the build-up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for “performance reasons”.
Further allegations that Sutton described Paralympic athletes as “gimps and wobblies” led to the Australian’s resignation, to avoid the furore “becoming a distraction” ahead of the Games, though Sutton continued to maintain his innocence.
Sutton had hoped to return to British Cycling in the event his name was cleared but the door back into the sport’s national governing body is now shut after an internal investigation ruled against the 59-year-old.
“Following an internal investigation the British Cycling board has upheld an allegation made by Jess Varnish that former technical director Shane Sutton had used inappropriate and discriminatory language,” read a British Cycling statement.
“The board wishes to put on record its sincere regret that this happened.”
Varnish said she was “relieved” at the decision to uphold her complaint.
“I spoke out because I wanted to shine a light on the culture at British Cycling, a culture that in my mind was incorrect,” she said.
“I’ve always believed in standing up for yourself, especially when you know things are wrong. It wasn’t easy for me to talk about this experience and I could’ve quite easily said and done nothing, but that isn’t me.
“I’ve always given 100% to my sport, and am still in love with cycling, so I hope that British Cycling can use this investigation as a way to improve and create a better environment for the Great Britain team.”
Sutton joined British Cycling as a coach in 2002 and became technical director in 2014. During his time with British Cycling, Team GB won eight gold medals and topped the cycling medal table at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games. Great Britain went on to win six gold medals and top the medal table once again in Sutton’s absence in Rio.
Varnish’s claims against Sutton were supported by former Olympic and world road race champion Nicole Cooke and double Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton.
However, a number of riders came out in support of Sutton, including Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and Laura Trott.
Sutton has continued to maintain his innocence and has questioned the evidence presented to the British Cycling board.
“I have gone back to them now and asked for the supporting evidence to try to understand how they have arrived at this conclusion,” Sutton told The Guardian. “I’m totally adamant that no conversations took place of that nature and that’s why I’ve asked for the supporting evidence.
“Where is the evidence that this conversation, these comments took place?. [Legal action] is a long way off. We’ll just have to sit back and talk to our lawyers and see.”
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