Jess Varnish tribunal: British Cycling coaches had ‘complete’ control over riders, says Dr Richard Freeman

Cycling


Jess Varnish arrives at the employment tribunal on Wednesday, accompanied by boyfriend and ex-GB BMX champion Liam Phillips (second left)

British Cycling coaches had “complete” control over athletes, according to a doctor’s evidence at the employment tribunal of ex-rider Jess Varnish.

Varnish is suing the national governing body and UK Sport for wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination.

Ex-British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman pulled out of appearing for Varnish on legal advice.

But Judge Ross accepted a written statement from Freeman at the Manchester tribunal on Thursday.

“The control by the coaches over the athletes was complete – cycling is a coach-led sport,” wrote Freeman, heard on day three of the tribunal.

“The coach would decide everything. The athletes were very firmly controlled.”

Sprinter Varnish, 28, was dropped from British Cycling’s elite programme in 2016, after which former technical director Shane Sutton was found to have used sexist language towards her.

Sutton had already resigned though was later cleared of eight of nine allegations.

Varnish has to persuade the judge that she was effectively employed by British Cycling and the funding agency UK Sport before she can sue British Cycling for wrongful dismissal, sex discrimination and detriment to a whistle-blower.

The former European team sprint champion says British Cycling’s control over her made it akin to her employer.

In his statement, Freeman said “non-compliance was not acceptable” because the coaches alone decided whether riders would stay on the programme.

Freeman is due to appear at a General Medical Council (GMC) hearing in February over a mystery delivery of testosterone to the National Velodrome in 2011.

He has also denied any wrongdoing over a medical package given to Sir Bradley Wiggins after a race in 2011.

GMC representatives were due to attend the Varnish tribunal because Freeman would be “cross-examined to establish his probity” by British Cycling’s lawyer Thomas Linden QC.

Freeman was therefore advised by his lawyer to pull out of appearing as a witness on Wednesday, but Varnish’s barrister, David Reade QC, asked Judge Ross to admit Freeman’s written evidence instead.

Linden “completely rejected” this request as the evidence was unsigned and could give Freeman “plausible deniability” if he were to change his view.

Judge Ross admitted the evidence after stating employment tribunals were “less formal” than courts but added she would give it “very little weight” in her deliberations.

Should it be ruled that Varnish was an employee of British Cycling and UK Sport, the parties will reconvene for a tribunal in 2019.

The rest of Thursday’s session heard British Cycling’s head coach Iain Dyer and programme director Andy Harrison, as well as UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl, cross-examined by barrister Reade.

Both Dyer and Harrison were challenged on several points related to the level of control British Cycling had over athletes in terms of training, their free time, what they wore and personal sponsorship deals.

Final submissions are on Friday, with a verdict expected on Monday.

July 2018: Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Freeman – We never crossed the line



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