Former UK Athletics coach Toni Minichiello banned for life for 'sexually physical behaviour'

·3 min read

A former UK Athletics coach has been banned for life after an investigation found he had engaged in "sexually physical behaviour" with athletes, bullying and emotional abuse.

Toni Minichiello is known for coaching Team GB's Jessica Ennis-Hill to heptathlon glory at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

In a statement, Minichiello said he strongly denies all the charges made against him.

He raised a number of concerns about the tribunal process, in one case claiming that he had been in a different country when one of the most serious allegations was said to have taken place.

'Large number of breaches'

UK Athletics found he had committed "a large number of breaches" of the terms of its coaching licence over a 15-year period.

It said the findings "constitute gross breaches of trust" and are of the "utmost seriousness".

The investigation concluded that he had mimicked sexual activity and that he had commented on and touched athletes breasts.

He also was found to have used derogatory language, such as when asked what training was going to entail replying "sucking my d***" and also referring to his penis as "spicy Italian sausage".

As Minichiello's coaching licence expired during the disciplinary process, he cannot be suspended or subject to a sanction.

However, the governing body has decided it will not entertain any future application made by Minichiello for a coach licence.

"UKA has considered the matter and decided that these findings are of the utmost seriousness," a UK Athletics (UKA) statement read.

"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.

"The issuance of a UKA licence 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.

"UKA has decided that it will not entertain any future application made by Mr Minichiello for a UKA coach licence in perpetuity."

Investigation finds Minichiello engaged in 'sexually physical behaviour'

The panel found that Minichiello:

  • Made inappropriate sexual references and gestures to athletes

  • Failed to respect the athletes' right to a private life by making intrusive enquiries and personal comments about their personal lives

  • Engaged in 'sexually physical behaviour', namely inappropriate and unwanted touching of athletes to whom he owed a duty of care

  • Engaged in inappropriate and sometimes aggressive behaviour, bullying and emotional abuse

Minichiello denies all charges made against him

In a statement, Minichiello 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."

He added: "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 tribunals need to be conducted carefully, with due process and fairly. I do not believe that I have been treated fairly in this instance."