The British athletics coach credited with guiding Jessica Ennis-Hill to the top of the sport, Toni Minichiello, has been banned for life after being found guilty of sexually inappropriate behaviour.
Minichiello “dry humped” athletes, touched and made comments about their breasts and told one female athlete she could “suck my ****”, a UK Athletics investigation concluded.
The 56-year-old also engaged in emotional abuse and bullying, including making one athlete sit in the corner with a cone on her head as a dunce’s cap, the panel found.
Minichiello’s coaching licence expired during the course of the investigation and UK Athletics said it would “not entertain any future application made by Mr Minichiello… in perpetuity”.
“UKA has considered the matter and decided that these findings are of the utmost seriousness,” the governing body said.
“They amount to a large number of breaches of the UKA Coach Licence 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.”
Minichiello contested the charges and has always maintained his innocence. Other allegations made against him, which have not been published, were found to be unproven.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
The Sheffield-based coach came to wider prominence as Ennis-Hill rose the ranks in heptathlon, in which she would win Olympic gold at London 2012.
She also became world champion in 2009, 2011 and 2015, as well as taking silver at the Rio 2016 Olympics, under the tutelage of her long-time mentor.
That success saw Minichiello named Coach of the Year award in 2012.
“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,” UK Athletics said.
“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.”