Shane Sutton, Jess Varnish and sexism in British Cycling

So given the results on the track it looks like Shane Sutton could well be heading back to lead British Cycling, I don’t know Shane, I don’t know what he’s said but when other men defend a man as a rough diamond or a typical Aussie what they’re saying is that he might be a sexist prick at times.

I will never understand the pressures of Elite competition but I’d imagine it’s pretty harsh and one guy on Cycling Weekly even asked “I’d love to see how some of these people would survive in the Army”. As someone that did almost 20 years in the army I coped pretty well but that’s not to say The Army back then wasn’t a sexist place to be, it was, very much so.

People lost their fucking minds when Jess called out Sutton “ why didn’t she say something while she was there” or “ sour grapes ” but that’s not what it is. What you chaps don’t understand is that we women largely get sexist bollocks every day, if it’s in the street we ignore it, if you work in an office you’d report it, but neither the army or the British Cycling pressure cooker are either of those things and at some point in the future if you’re an elite cyclist or in the army there may be a time when you have to not let the red mist come in you will have to focus under the most excruciating pressure.

Simulated mental stress could be as simple as having someone degrade you verbally inches from your ear shouting while you’re running through your blockage drills on your weapon if you’re a woman this is generally done by attacking you verbally as a woman in a way that a man would never be spoken to and that’s the point of sexism.

Now while I was doing the army thing, because I wanted to be there I largely had to suck it up, you tolerate it because the job you have to do is more important to you than the sexist bullshit that your superior is piling on top of you and this is where Jess comes in I believe.

Jess didn’t make the team, the team as it happened went on to smash record, break hearts and collect gold which vindicated Sutton’s choices but let’s not confuse winning choices with selective vernacular and let’s not use those gold medals as an excuse for sexist language.

I’m sure that Sutton isn’t a simpleton when it comes to cycling but that’s not a reason for him not to have respect for women. The Army has modernised it’s started to catch up with modern standards in respect and equality it’s a shame that knuckle draggers like in sports can’t make the same transition in moving away from their sexist interactions to something more constructive.

Jess calling bullshit on Sutton isn’t sour grapes, it’s a result of the pressure coming off, her being released from the leash and having the freedom of not being selected to speak her mind.

When you’re working toward something you don’t want to be seen as annoyingly outspoken or verbose because rocking the boat, although a man that speaks up would be just considered to have an opinion which is something some men simply don’t understand. How could our feeble lady brains could ever think about anything other than nail varnish long enough to ever form and opinion let alone make it worth listening to.

Speaking out will not get you selected when the margins within the team are so fine, but when you don’t even get invited aboard the boat, and you’ve taken all the bullshit that can be thrown at you I think you have a right to speak about your reality, i think to deny Jess the right the release the pressure placed on her perfectly ok.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul Johnson says:

    I sincerely hope that gold medals are not used to excuse Mr Sutton. I also think they are enough talented coaches and support staff in BC to mean that he is not required to come back. Let this be the start of a sea change in attitudes and culture and change our great sport for the better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eden Walker says:

      I agree but given the nature of funding being based on results it wouldn’t surprise me if he came back


  2. dave2030 says:

    I agree with what you say, but the real story here isn’t about sexism, it’s about unfair dismissal.

    Consider the chronology:-

    Before the 2016 Track World Championships, Varnish was the only choice for lap 1 and there was no question mark over her performance. After the BBC interview, when she and Marchant voiced criticism of BC management, she was publicly denigrated by Sutton and labelled a failure.

    Iain Dyer admitted that GB would have qualified for the team sprint, if James had not been out for so long with a knee injury. Therefore, it was illogical and unjust to blame Varnish for GB’s failure, she’d have gone to Rio and most probably medalled. Sutton’s lies (not a medal prospect, too old, and a waste of money!) prejudiced the appeal proceedings, which turned into a kangaroo court, because all the performance data was held by Sutton and Dyer. Jess wasn’t allowed to see it all.

    Conclusion: Sutton took revenge on Varnish, because he could, with Dyer’s collusion. Therefore, he was the architect of his own downfall, because Jess would have had no reason to spill the beans, if she hadn’t been dropped from the program.

    I sent a submission to the Cycling Independent Review Panel on June 28. There’s lots more in my Disqus archive (Dave2020) and any questions will receive a reply from


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