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Jess Varnish upset she was not allowed to respond to criticism in Phelps report

Jess Varnish upset she was not allowed to respond to criticism in Phelps report
By PA Sport

15/06/2017 at 16:23Updated 15/06/2017 at 16:35

Jess Varnish is "disappointed" that criticisms of British Cycling in an independent report were diluted from an earlier, leaked draft and upset she was not given the chance to reply to claims about her.

Jess Varnish is "disappointed" that criticisms of British Cycling in an independent report were diluted from an earlier, leaked draft and upset she was not given the chance to reply to claims about her.

The long-awaited report, produced by a five-strong panel led by British Rowing chair Annamarie Phelps, was published on Wednesday.

Co-commissioned by British Cycling and funding agency UK Sport, the report's final assessment was highly critical of the governing body's leadership and its handling of Varnish's abrupt removal from the Great Britain cycling team last year.

Those criticisms, however, and many others, were considerably milder than a draft written on February 28, which was later leaked to the Daily Mail. In fact, the final report was seven pages shorter than the February draft.

Phelps denied suggestions on Wednesday that the panel's final take was a "whitewash", saying some language had been changed "in light of new information", but the core message remained and it was still "very strong...very critical".

The reference to "new information" relates to the responses the panel received as part of a legal process known as Maxwellisation, which gives those criticised in a report the right to correct factual errors and make further representations to balance the picture.

This opportunity was extended to members of British Cycling's board, former performance director Sir Dave Brailsford and his de facto successor Shane Sutton, whom Varnish accused of bullying and discrimination after she was dropped from the programme.

It was those claims, along with similar allegations from other riders, which started the crisis that engulfed British Cycling last year and led to the establishment of the independent panel.

But one of Varnish's lawyers, Tom Barnard, told Press Association Sport that the 26-year-old rider was not given the opportunity to make a Maxwellisation response, despite being a central figure in the saga.

Having explained that Varnish was still digesting the report and considering her next move, he said: "Looking at the report, it's still very critical of British Cycling, but she's clearly a little disappointed that it's been watered down from the earlier version.

"But what particularly disappoints her is that she was not given a chance to respond to some of the claims made about her, as others obviously were for criticisms of them. For example, the final report refers to her as a 'ring-leader' and 'trouble-maker'.

"It's surprising to us that she wasn't allowed to reply to this, given the fact she kicked it all this off and is mentioned throughout the report. She should have been given a proper opportunity to respond."

When asked if Varnish was considering legal action, Barnard said it was too early to discuss that, but she was continuing to pursue a "subject access request" to obtain her performance data from British Cycling.

The governing body has repeatedly claimed that, while mistakes were undoubtedly made in the manner in which she was dropped from the team, the reason behind that decision was sound as it was based on her declining performance.

Varnish's camp rejects that and says it wants to see the data that British Cycling claims can support that view.

British Cycling has told Press Association Sport that it has sent data - understood to be graph plotting Varnish's times against rivals - to the former European champion, as well as offering her a meeting with its new performance director Stephen Park.

It is also believed the governing body is considering asking an independent expert to analyse the graph.

She, however, has described the graph as "meaningless" and wants her former coaches to produce more data to back up the assertion that she was no longer competitive.

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