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Toni Minichiello banned for life by UK Athletics over sexually inappropriate conduct | Athletics

Toni Minichiello, the coach who guided Jessica Ennis-Hill to gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games, has been banned for life from training athletes after an investigation found he had engaged in sexually inappropriate behaviour, emotional abuse and bullying.

In a statement, UK Athletics said the findings of a disciplinary panel were “of the utmost seriousness”, and included gross breaches of trust by Minichiello, which had led to severe consequences for the mental health and wellbeing of some of his athletes.

Minichiello, who was suspended last year pending an investigation into complaints from multiple female athletes and coaches, was found to have breached his coaching license over a 15-year period in numerous ways by the Independent Case Management Group, including:

Making inappropriate sexual references and gestures to athletes, including mimicking “female genitalia and oral sex”, telling an athlete to “suck my ****” and frequently referring to his penis as his “spicy Italian sausage”.

Failing to respect the athletes’ right to a private life by making intrusive inquiries and comments about their personal lives, including asking an athlete if she had “ever had sex while doing weights”.

Engaging in sexually physical behaviour, namely inappropriate and unwanted touching of athletes to whom he owed a duty of care, including touching two athletes’ breasts and “dry humping” to mimic sexual activity.

Engaging in inappropriate and sometimes aggressive behaviour, bullying and emotional abuse including one athlete being made to sit with a cone on her head to mimic a dunce’s cap.

UK Athletics said: “They amount to a large number of breaches of the UKA coach license terms over a 15-year period. They constitute gross breaches of trust by Mr Minichiello, which have had severe consequences for the mental health and mental wellbeing of the athletes under his charge.

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    UK Athletics said that as Minichiello’s coaching license had expired the body was unable to suspend or sanction him. But due to the seriousness of the allegations, it would not allow him to coach again. “It is noted that during the process of these disciplinary matters, Mr Minichiello’s coaching license expired and therefore cannot be suspended/subject to a sanction. Therefore, UKA has decided that it will not entertain any future application made by Mr Minichiello for a UKA coach license in perpetuity.

    “The issuance of a UKA license to a coach is essentially a representation on behalf of UKA that the coach in question can be trusted with the athletes under his charge. UKA is firmly of the view that there will never be a time in the future at which it would be appropriate to grant that assurance and issue such a licence.”

    UK Athletics said that other allegations made against the 56-year-old Minichiello had been unproven.

    Minichiello, who also guided Ennis-Hill to world titles in 2009, 2011 and 2015 and silver at Rio 2016, has always denied any wrongdoing.

    In a statement he said: “I cannot fully express my disappointment with this decision and with UK Athletics’ unfair handling of this process. I strongly deny all the charges made against me. I have been a coach for over 30 years and, while I have been robust and demanding, I have not behaved inappropriately towards any of my athletes as very many of them would confirm.

    “It is very important that UK Athletics respond quickly and seriously to serious allegations of misconduct, especially when those allegations are made by young people. However, those investigations and courts need to be conducted carefully, with due process and fairly. I do not believe that I have been treated fairly in this instance.”

    He was formerly the national event coach for combined events and switched roles in 2010 to become a UK Athletics Olympic coach, allowing him to focus exclusively on Ennis-Hill. In 2012 he was named coach of the year, an award presented by the Princess Royal.

    Minichiello, who was a longstanding critic of UK Athletics, was until recently also the chair of the British Basketball Federation.

    In a brief statement on social media, Ennis-Hill said: “Reading the news today about my former coach Toni Minichiello, it is both shocking and upsetting. The allegations are awful and although I was never on the receiving end of any sexual physical behaviour, any such inappropriate behavior or langugage has no place in any coaching or work environment.”

    UKA added that it will “share the outcome of this adjudication and decision relating to any future license application with both UK Sport and the Athletics Integrity Unit for their awareness. UKA wishes to recognize those who came forward to give evidence in this case. We thank them and strongly encourage anyone with a concern to come forward.”

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