Former British cyclist Jess Varnish today told an employment tribunal that she experienced "extreme control" under British cycling that was akin to that of an employer ©Getty Images

Former British cyclist Jess Varnish, who is suing British Cycling for wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination, has told an employment tribunal that the organisation had "extreme control" over her that was similar to that of an employer. 

Varnish appeared at the Manchester Employment Tribunal today to begin her battle against British Cycling for wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination. 

She must first prove to the tribunal that she was an employee of both British Cycling and UK Sport before she can sue the under-fire national governing body.

Varnish began legal proceedings after she was dropped from the Olympic programme in 2016, with the cyclist claiming that it was due to her criticism of her coaches after she failed to qualify for Rio 2016.

She also claimed that British Cycling's technical director at the time, Shane Sutton, told her to "go and have a baby."

An internal investigation found that Sutton, who had resigned shortly after the incident, had used sexist language, but was not guilty of bullying.

The organisation also argued that Varnish had been dropped purely due to her recent performance. 

Today, Varnish was cross-examined over her written witness statement and oral evidence by British Cycling's barrister Thomas Linden.

She gave examples of the organisation's "extreme control" over her, including coaches listening through her hotel door to check if she was asleep when she went on training camps as a youth and having to provide monthly blood samples which the body then owned. 

Jess Varnish had accused former British Cycling technical director, Shane Sutton, of sexual discrimination ©Getty Images
Jess Varnish had accused former British Cycling technical director, Shane Sutton, of sexual discrimination ©Getty Images

The cyclist argued that this level of control was similar to that of an employer, with her ability to make money as a freelancer curbed by her contracts with British Cycling and UK Sport.

Linden challenged this, however, arguing that Varnish's annual funding agreements had not changed between 2005 and 2016 and that upon signing these she had agreed to the terms and conditions. 

He also told the tribunal about Varnish's own company, Jess Varnish Management, which reduced the taxes she paid on sponsorship earnings and evidences Varnish's ability to work as a freelancer. 

The case will continue tomorrow, when Varnish's boyfriend and former British BMX star Liam Phillips and agent James Harper are due to give evidence.

Tomorrow will also see former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman giving evidence on behalf of Varnish. 

The outcome of the tribunal, which will last until next Wednesday (December 19), could have consequences for UK Sport and other athletes. 

UK Sport currently funds athletes through a tax-free sum but do not offer holidays, sick pays or pensions. 

A victory for Varnish could see UK Sport's grants become subject to tax and the organisation have to fund pensions and other staff costs.