Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke back up sexism claims in British Cycling row

Victoria Pendleton, right, has spoken out in support of Jess Varnish, left

Olympic champions Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke have both criticised British Cycling following Jess Varnish's recent sexism claims.

Varnish voiced allegations of sexism after she was dropped from the Great Britain team, telling the Daily Mail that technical director Shane Sutton had told her to "go and have a baby".

Pendleton, who competed with Varnish at the London Olympics, said she "wholeheartedly believes" her, while Cooke said she sympathises with the 25-year-old.

"I have never spoken out before," Pendleton told the Daily Telegraph. "But I have to do it now.

"I would not be able to live with myself if I sat back and let people try to discredit (Varnish's) character. Not when I wholeheartedly believe her.

"My experiences were very similar. And I know exactly how miserable they made me.

"I never really felt I had the same respect as my male team-mates. My opinion wasn't worth as much. I used to sit quietly in meetings and not say anything as I knew my opinions would be disregarded. And that's after I had become Olympic champion and multiple world champion.

"You have to wonder why there isn't a single woman in a position of leadership in the organisation.

"If there's a 50-50 split in terms of athletes, why isn't there in terms of staff? Although that's something that needs to be addressed in sport as a whole."

Meanwhile, Cooke, who won gold in the w omen's road race at Beijing 2008, claimed in her column in the Guardian that "h ypocrisy and double standards in respect to gender are ingrained in cycling".

Speaking about British Cycling, she added: "I have my own personal experiences of Shane and sympathise with Jess.

"She was in the position so many have found themselves: speak out and your dreams will be destroyed and years of hard work wasted. Or put up with it and hope."

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