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Sutton denies sexism, questions British Cycling investigation

LONDON (Reuters) - British Cycling's former technical director Shane Sutton insists he is not a sexist and denies ever telling rider Jess Varnish to 'go and have a baby' after she was dropped from the team.

Sutton resigned in April following Varnish's claims that he had made inappropriate remarks about her weight.

On Friday British Cycling said an internal investigation had upheld Varnish's allegations, effectively ending any chance that Sutton would return to the organisation.

However, Sutton claims he has been the victim of "untruths".

"It would be just nice to understand how they came to this decision," Sutton, a key component in Britain's rise to become a cycling superpower, said in an interview with Sky Sports.

Varnish was dropped from the programme in March after a disappointing performance from Britain's women team sprint at the London track cycling world championships.

Asked whether he told her to go and have a baby or that her backside was too large for the event, straight-talking Australian Sutton said he told her she needed to 'lose some timber'.

"I will continue to repeat what I've said from day one, that conversation has never taken place," he said.

"The weight conversation did take place. If Jess can produce where the conversation took place, who was there at the time -- and I believe that it was only me -- so I'm trying to understand how they've arrived at that decision given it's her word against mine. It never happened in the way it was described.

"I can visualise the conversation quite vividly. The coaches and dieticians had sat Jess down and said you really need to lose some weight. Jess was confused because she thought the coaches had told her to get bigger, get more power.

"She asked me for my personal opinion and I said do you want the director's opinion or the personal opinion? My exact words were 'we are trying to qualify for the Games in team sprint and you need to lose some timber'."

An independent review into British Cycling is ongoing after other riders, including Olympic champions Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke, claimed there was a culture of sexism and bullying in the organisation while Sutton was in charge.

He has also been accused of calling Paracyclists "wobblies".

Sutton continues to deny the claims.

"I sympathised with (Varnish) losing her place on the team but we were about performance and Jess hadn't done that in quite some time. This is nothing to do with sexism," he said.

"I like to tell the truth, maybe to my detriment sometimes, and the truth is I'm not a sexist and that is the only thing that has really hurt me in all of this."

Sutton joined British Cycling in 2002 and together with Dave Brailsford masterminded stunning medal returns at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games in which Britain won eight golds at each.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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