Jess Varnish in five-hour cross-examination as former GB track rider attempts to sue British Cycling

Jess Varnish was forced to admit her annual funding payments from UK Sport were “tax-free grants” on a bruising day for the former Great Britain track rider on Tuesday.

The concession came in the 28-year-old’s fifth hour of cross-examination in her employment tribunal against British Cycling and UK Sport in Manchester.

Varnish, who is six months pregnant, is trying to sue British Cycling for wrongful dismissal and sex discrimination after she was dropped from the Olympic programme in March 2016.

But to do that she must first persuade the tribunal that she was an employee of cycling’s national governing body and the elite funding agency.

If she wins that argument, and Judge Ross’ verdict is expected next Monday, she can sue for damages, but that looks less likely after her written statement was dismantled by the respondents’ lawyers.

British Cycling’s barrister Thomas Linden QC was especially scathing of her attempts to portray a regime of “extreme control” within the Olympic cycling squad, effectively calling Varnish a liar.

Her case hinges on being able to show that British Cycling and UK Sport have the athletes they fund under a “net of control” which amounts to an employer/employee relationship.

To make this case, Varnish gave examples of how she was told what to eat, when to train, what to wear and how to spend her free time.

The former European team sprint champion told the tribunal coaches “would play (the athletes) off against each other” and use “mind games” to make them comply with their demands on how to train and whether they could even attend family weddings.

She also said she was prevented from working with sponsors that conflicted with those of British Cycling and UK Sport, had to make marketing appearances on their behalf and was told to retweet brand messages that were helpful to them.

Furthermore, she said she had to give monthly blood samples, which were then owned by British Cycling, and have regular electrocardiogram (ECG) tests.

Linden, however, took her through a series of emails and texts from British Cycling’s head coach Iain Dyer and other coaches which he said showed “the true nature” of Varnish’s relationship with the programme.

This was important because Varnish has claimed her feedback on training was rarely heeded and she was too “scared” to tell coaches what she was doing in her free time.

Linden, though, said he had never seen such warm messages between employer and employee in “27 years of doing employment law”.

In a particularly wounding exchange, he said: “I put it to you that these are very typical exchanges.

“I’m not going to go through them all now but there are plenty – it obviously wasn’t a rare event.

“When we look at your witness statement it’s blood, blisters and vomit but the reality is you had a collaborative and cordial relationship with your coaches. You wrote all that for the press and to make your case.”

Linden also claimed that Varnish’s statement did not give the tribunal a fair picture of her financial relationship with British Cycling.

Varnish did not mention, he said, that she set up a management company to manage her tax affairs and this company earned more than £30,000 per annum from personal sponsorship deals.

Linden also noted that the ECG tests were required by the International Cycling Union.

But perhaps the most damaging moments for her case came when UK Sport’s barrister Jane Mulcahy took over and asked Varnish a series of yes/no questions.

In these Varnish had to acknowledge that the agency had never told her how to “do her sport” in return for their annual awards of £25,000-28,000 or that she had ever been ordered to post anything on social media.

On the key issue of the promotional appearances athletes are obliged to make for UK Sport, Mulcahy said they had no record that Varnish had ever been asked to do one and the Bromsgrove-born athlete was unable to say if she had or not.

When asked by Mulcahy if she agreed that the “athlete performance award is a tax-free grant to help you fulfil your Olympic dreams”, Varnish said: “Yep.”

That would appear to scupper Varnish’s central argument about her employment status but there are still two more days of evidence scheduled, with her agent James Harper, her partner and former GB BMX star Liam Phillips and ex-British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman all set to appear on Wednesday.

Dyer and UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl are among the witnesses set to appear for the respondents on Thursday, with the latter set to tell the tribunal that any change to the employment status of athletes will mean less money to go around and therefore fewer funded athletes.

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Ex-British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman to face tribunal in February

Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman will face his long-awaited medical tribunal in February – to answer questions over the delivery of testosterone patches to cycling’s national headquarters in Manchester.

Sky Sports News has learnt that the General Medical Council hearing will be held in public in Manchester – and could see the Freeman suspended or removed from the medical register.

The medic, who worked for British Cycling and Team Sky between 2008 and 2017, has denied the claim that a Jiffy Bag hand-delivered to Sir Bradley Wiggins at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné contained the banned steroid triamcinolone.

He believes he was the victim of a “set-up” aimed at ruining the reputations of both himself and Wiggins.

One witness called to give evidence at the tribunal is the coach Shane Sutton, a former friend and mentor of Wiggins who later fell out after a series of disagreements.

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Tottenham team news: Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen to return but Kyle Walker-Peters in for crucial Champions League game at Barcelona

Fail to beat Barcelona and they are relying on Inter Milan slipping up at home to PSV Eindhoven.


But just when Mauricio Pochettino needed a full-strength side, he looks as though he has a defensive crisis on his hands.

First-choice right-back Kieran Trippier has struggled with a groin strain in recent weeks and was not in the matchday squad against Leicester on Saturday.

He is not even expected to travel with the squad to Barcelona.

Serge Aurier started at the weekend – and three Champions League games this season – but limped off with 12 minutes to go and is now a major doubt as well.


It means Kyle Walker-Peters is expected to celebrate his fresh new deal at Tottenham by starting against Lionel Messi and Co.

His only previous Champions League experience came a year ago – he played the final 20 minutes of the 3-0 win over APOEL Nicosia at Wembley. Quite a contrast to a crucial game in the Nou Camp.

But Pochettino has every confidence in his side.

He said: "We have a chance. Yes, I believe. I think we believe, that's the most important thing, and then what happens happens, we are going to enjoy the game.

"It's always an exciting place, they're one of the best teams in Europe and I know it's amazing, very exciting to play against them.

"But at the same time it's going to be tough to play there, we're going to play one of the best teams in Europe and the only way that we can be happy will be to win the game, and that will be tough."

Across the rest of the defence, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are expected to start with no alternatives at centre-back. Davinson Sanchez is injured and Juan Foyth is not in the European squad.

Ben Davies and Danny Rose should both be available so it will be a case of seeing who Pochettino would prefer on the big stage.

In midfield, Eric Dier and Moussa Sissoko would be the obvious pairing with Harry Winks a good option from the bench.

Spurs need to be at full-strength in attack to have any chance of getting something in Barcelona.

Fortunately for Poch, it appears they will be.

Son Heung-min and Dele Alli scored in the 2-0 win at the King Power while Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen both came off the bench for a light workout.

Rest assured, they will be starting tomorrow night barring any drastic change of circumstances.


Dele may have been under the weather lately but that did not stop him scoring his 50th goal for Spurs with a diving header past Kasper Schmeichel, almost identical to his first.

He is ready to swap the 'flu camp for the Nou Camp tomorrow night – and knows how big the achievement would be if they do get that win.

The England star said: "It would definitely be up there. They are one of the best teams in the world, they've got some great players and as a kid you dream about playing at the Nou Camp and we're going to go there and give it our best shot.

"I've had a bit of a cold but it's not too bad.

"A cold won't keep me out. We're ready. It's going to be another difficult game but they're the games you want to be a part of, playing one of the best teams in the world and some of the world's greatest players.

"You want to be challenging yourself and we're going there with the mentality that we can win and we have to believe.

"It's going to be difficult but we have to go there and give it our best."

Barca may have already topped the group but they will not be going easy, insists midfielder Arturo Vidal.

He said: "Let's be clear, as Barcelona players we want to finish this first phase without losing a game and with ours heads held high.

"We may have first place already assured but finishing the group with a win in front of our own fans is the only way to go into the next round with a good taste in the mouth.

“Nobody will be reserving strength or holding anything back.

"So will be it be a case of Barcelona relaxed and with many changes against Tottenham? I don't think so."

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Astonishing moment team refuses to try in match in protest over unpaid wages… and opponents do not attack in solidarity

The team huddled together and stood in a line at the centre circle while Alcocorn knocked the ball around their own half.

The players, including the goalkeeper, stood still for the first minute of the La Liga 2 showdown before the match commenced.

It is understood the players have not been paid in nearly three months because of the club's financial crisis.

Fans applauded and cheered as they watched the protest take place at the Estadio Municipal de Santo Domingo on Sunday.

And the home side refused to take advantage of the game out of respect for their opponents.


Reus have reportedly failed to fork out around £711,000 of wages to their employees – 80 per cent of which is owed to the players.

If they are not paid by midnight on Monday, a clause in contract will allow them to quit the club and search for a new team.

But La Liga have allegedly offered to pay the players directly into their bank accounts to stop them leaving.

Reports claim the squad have voted to accept the league's offer, but five players disagreed.

Reus went on to win the match 1-0 after Luis Gustavo scored from the spot in the first half of the match.

Alcorcon defender Carlos Bellvis received a red card for giving away the penalty.

But Xavi Bartolo's side are 20th in the Spanish second-tier after picking up just four wins from 17 matches.

 

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Women's rugby team who caught 50 Cent's eye strip off for final nude calendar – and promise it is their most revealing yet

Wearing just their club socks and boots, the ladies have posed naked on camera for their last ever nude calendar — which they say is their most revealing yet.

The cheeky snaps of Hitchin Ladies Rugby Club have attracted fans from across the world with calendars shipped as far afield as Australia.

Despite their international fan-base the teammates have decided to keep their clothes on for their next fundraising challenge.

Pictures released for this year's calendar are taken at the secluded grounds of a Hertfordshire club and capture the girls training in the nude.

Steamy snaps show the girls passing, tackling and running through sprinklers.





Another image shows the ladies in a nude human pyramid — and another captures a naked player erecting a post protector.

Organiser and inside centre Claire Crompton, 29, revealed that she and her teammates loved the exposure from the photos.

But they agreed that now was the time for them to move on.

She said it started as a bit of fun in 2015 and she never thought it would attract so much attention.

At one point rapper 50 Cent shared the pictures to his 35million Facebook fans.

Pro players from the Southern Hemisphere also re-posted them.






Claire said: "It is a bit sad that this is the last year but it is quite a bit of work and it has been really successful so we want to end on a high.

"Also we have exhausted the options for photos with everything being covered and I didn't want it to become boring and just have us holding rugby balls.

"I hadn't thought about it but this year's is more revealing because we have less inhibitions each year and we are used to being naked around each other.

"I guess we are more relaxed with each other now."

This year the ladies will be raising cash for the club and Target Ovarian Cancer.

Over the course of three years £20,000 has been raised by the girls — with more than 2,000 calendars sold world-wide.

Event worker Claire, from Stevenage, said: "I just want to thank anyone who has supported us, bought a calendar or helped us out.

"We are grateful for the money raised for charity and the club, and hope they enjoyed them too."

The third and final calendars are on sale for £12 and are available from the rugby club shop.



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Arsenal team news: Ozil uncertainty, Aubameyang not fully fit and Xhaka out as Unai Emery plots Man Utd downfall

The 29-year-old netted twice against Tottenham during Arsenal's 4-2 win against rivals Tottenham to move to the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts.



With the Gunners seeking a first win in the top-flight at Old Trafford since September 2006, Aubameyang is looking to lead the line once again.

He said: "I think I'm not at 100 per cent but it's coming. It's coming and against Spurs I felt very good on the pitch.

“I'm really happy because my best form is coming. We knew that if we won this game we'd be in the top four. It's great now."

While adding: "I like to play up front but I know that I can help the team. Sometimes the coach puts me on the left side but as I said it [centre-forward] is my favourite position.”



Mesut Ozil may miss the match against Jose Mourinho's men, with Unai Emery insisting he has not fully recovered from a back injury.

Speaking in his pre-match press conference, the Spaniard said: "Today he was working alone, I don’t know if he’s OK for Wednesday.

“I said yesterday he’s had backache since last Tuesday. He couldn’t play in Kiev or yesterday.

“At the moment, I don’t know if he can play in Manchester."

Meanwhile, Matteo Guendouzi will likely replace Granit Xhaka in the starting XI after the Swiss midfielder picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against Spurs.

Aaron Ramsey though will be vying to start instead, having registered two assists against Tottenham after being chucked on at half-time.

Emery has elected to start three at the back for the last two league games, but may have to rethink his line-up after Shkodran Mustafi was forced off on Sunday.

While Nacho Monreal remains on the sidelines as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

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