BROMSGROVE-born former Great Britain track sprinter Jess Varnish is suing British Cycling and UK Sport for sex discrimination, detriment for whistle-blowing, victimisation and unfair dismissal.

Having been dropped from British Cycling's elite set-up in April 2016, only four months before Rio 2016, Varnish accused ex-technical director Shane Sutton of using sexist language towards her.

When that allegation was combined with further claims from other athletes of bullying and discrimination, Sutton was suspended and then resigned.

A British Cycling investigation later cleared him of most of the allegations but agreed that he had used discriminatory language, and an independent investigation criticised Sutton and the governing body's handling of Varnish's case.

It is reported the 26-year-old took the case to an employment tribunal in Manchester last Monday (November 6).

There, in a preliminary hearing, a judge dismissed UK Sport's attempt to ‘strike out’ her case at the first hurdle, as well as its applications for costs and deposit orders.

If granted, Varnish would have faced bankruptcy if she lost the case, but the upfront cost of finding a deposit to cover UK Sport's legal bill could have forced her to drop the case.

A source close to Varnish said: "What British Cycling and UK Sport are saying in public is very different to what they are doing in private."

The source added that Varnish, a former European and 10-time British champion, is not ‘doing this for the money’, but because ‘she is passionate about the fact athletes still have no real rights, no pension, no grievance policy, and that is not something the rest of us would put up with’.

The next step is another preliminary hearing in April, when the crucial issue of whether Varnish, and therefore all funded Olympic and Paralympic athletes, should be treated as an employee, a worker or self-employed.

Currently, athletes funded by UK Sport, via their national governing bodies, are treated as self-employed contractors. Therefore, they pay no income tax and national insurance on their grants but also have no pension rights and have not been covered by the governing bodies' HR policies.

Varnish’s legal team say athletes could be made exempt from tax, in the same way the armed forces are when deployed, but should have pension rights and access to staff grievance procedures.

UK Sport has said it is ‘unable to comment at this time due to the legal nature of the process’, while a spokesman for British Cycling said: "We are in an ongoing and positive dialogue with Jess and look forward to reaching a resolution which all parties will regard as equitable."