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LONDON (AFP) — British track cyclist Jess Varnish could take legal action against British Cycling after an independent review labeled the elite program as engendering a “culture of fear.”
The 26-year-old Varnish, who won the European Team Sprint world title in 2011, told The Times she felt insulted at being labeled a “troublemaker” and a “ringleader” in the review that was published Wednesday.
Varnish’s complaints in April 2016 about the sexist remarks and bullying by the program’s Australian technical director Shane Sutton led to the Cycling Independent Review (CIR) being set up under the leadership of British Rowing chair Annamarie Phelps.
Phelps, though, had to defend the final version being seven pages shorter and with some damning criticisms removed compared to the draft report leaked to The Daily Mail in March.
Varnish, whom Sutton told to “get on with having a baby” after she was cut from the team last year, said the characterizations of her in the report would not ring true with those who knew her.
“I am insulted,” she told The Times. “In a way I’m glad they have used this language because it shows what the people are like in there [at British Cycling].
“Anyone who knows me knows I am not a troublemaker or ringleader. No one has ever been removed from the program the way I was.”
Phelps and the five-member panel criticized British Cycling for lacking “good governance” and regretted that findings in a 2012 report had not been acted upon because of the governing body’s choice to prioritize winning medals at the London Olympics.
However, observations in the draft report that the board had been “inept” and “sanitized” during an in-house inquiry into Varnish’s allegations were not present in the final report.
The finding in the draft report that Varnish had been removed form the team as “an act of retribution” for her criticisms of the coaching regime had also been removed.
Phelps, though, denied the report was a whitewash and explained they had utilized a process known as “Maxwellisation,” which allows those named and shamed in the draft report the right to reply and defend themselves.