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Shane Sutton suspended amid discrimination allegations

British Cycling technical director faces internal investigation after scathing attack by jilted sprinter Jess Varnish

British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton has been suspended with little more than three months to go until the start of the Olympic Games after allegations of discrimination.

The Australian, 58, was the subject of a scathing attack by track sprinter Jess Varnish this week, while para-cyclist has Darren Kenny has now accused Sutton of discrimination against para-cyclists in a Daily Mail interview..

British Cycling opened an independent review, in conjunction with UK Sport, of the performance programmes after Varnish issued a statement standing by comments she made earlier this week about Sutton.

And the governing body announced late last night that Sutton would be suspended pending an internal investigation into the allegations reported in the press.

Shane Sutton has been suspended by British Cycling pending an internal review into his behaviour (Pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

Varnish was dropped from British Cycling’s Olympic podium programme earlier this month after narrowly failing to qualify a place in the team sprint for Rio with Katy Marchant.

The 25-year-old criticised British Cycling at the time, after a fifth place finish at the World Championships in London proved not enough to seal the final Olympic berth for European nations, but Sutton insisted the decision had been made ‘purely on performance grounds’.

But Varnish hit back in a statement published on her personal website yesterday (April 26), claiming Sutton’s interview with the Telegraph – during which he discussed Varnish’s future- contravened an agreement that British Cycling do not publicly comment on such matters.

In an interview with the Daily Mail Varnish claimed Sutton told her to ‘go and have a baby’ and stood by those comments in her statement.

The Halesowen rider says Sutton’s interview, during which he said she was ‘too old’ and ‘not worth wasting UK Sport’s money’ also made her realise the door back to British Cycling was closed – despite being told earlier to prove the selectors wrong.

Varnish said: “When Shane Sutton gave his interview to the Telegraph discussing my situation, without any prior warning that he was going to make it public, I was devastated.

“He said I was ’too old’ and ‘not worth wasting UK Sport’s money’. It was at this point that I realised my career with British Cycling, in Shane Sutton’s eyes, was over, and that I would never get a fair trial or opportunity to compete for Great Britain again while Shane is the performance director.

“There was no longer any point in staying quiet. He told everyone that my Rio 2016 dream was over before telling me. This is why I decided to speak out, I obviously no longer have anything to lose and can no longer trust Shane or those in charge at British Cycling to be fair.

“The comment that Shane Sutton told me ’to go and have a baby’ is true. I stand by all my statements in the Daily Mail interview and have examples of other comments made to me during my time at British Cycling by Shane Sutton dating back many years.”

Jessica Varnish, right, has been dropped from British Cycling’s podium programme (pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

Varnish also hit back at the suggestion she had under-performed and was too old for the British Cycling podium programme.

She added: “With regards to my contract not being renewed on performance grounds, I find this very hard to accept. Prior to the 2016 World Championships I was not once told that I was underperforming.

“We have monthly reviews and at no stage was I put under review, or set performance targets to keep my place on the programme. The first I knew that the coaches had an issue with my performance levels was five days after the 2016 World Championships, when I was told I wouldn’t be getting a new contract over the phone.

“During the two-year Olympic qualifying process, I gained more qualifying points than any other British female sprint rider. I was consistently performing in the top five in the World for Lap One times in the Team Sprint, and I have also qualified Olympic places in the individual Sprint and Keirin.

“Since 2012 I have won medals at the World & European Championships and Commonwealth Games.

“At 25 years old I feel my best years are ahead of me. Sprinters such as Jamie Staff, Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy, all achieved success well into their thirties, so I refuse to believe that my career is finished.”

Varnish claims Sutton told her to ‘go and have a baby’ (pic: Alex Broadway/SWpix.com)

Varnish concluded her statement by reiterating her belief she could compete for British Cycling again, while Sutton came in for more criticism from Kenny in a separate Daily Mail interview.

Kenny and an unnamed ‘former British Cycling staff member’ claim Sutton referred to para-cyclists as ‘gimps’ and ‘wobblies’ and they were not treated as elite athletes.

Announcing the internal review and Sutton’s suspension, the short British Cycling statement said: “British Cycling is announcing the formation of an independent review, in conjunction with UK Sport, of the federation’s performance programmes following allegations of discriminatory behaviour.

“We are fully committed to the principles and active promotion of equality of opportunity and we must take any such allegations seriously.

“The terms of the review will be announced in due course and no further comment will be made at this stage.”

Sutton, right, is also alleged to have called para-cyclists ‘gimps’ and ‘wobblies’ (pic: Alex Whitehead/SWPix.com)

They later added: “Following the announcement of an independent review into British Cycling’s performance programmes, we are also announcing technical director Shane Sutton has been suspended pending an internal investigation into the allegations of discrimination that have been reported in the press.”

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