Coach who guided Jess Ennis-Hill to Olympic gold found guilty of sexually inappropriate behaviour, emotional abuse and bullying
Toni Minichiello has been banned for life as a coach after an investigation found he had engaged in “sexually physical behaviour” with athletes. In a damning verdict, UK Athletics said it “will not entertain any future application made by Mr Minichiello for a UKA coach licence in perpetuity”.
The 56-year-old Sheffield-based coach was found guilty of 11 charges including mimicking sexual activity and touching an athlete’s breasts and was the subject of multiple complaints by women in the sport.
In 2017 Minichiello received a written warning from the governing body relating to his conduct. Then last year he was suspended pending an investigation.
During that time his coaching licence lapsed and he has now been found guilty by an independent disciplinary panel of offences over a 15-month period which amounted to “gross breaches of trust” and which had “severe consequences for the mental health and mental wellbeing of the athletes under his charge”.
There is no suggestion, however, that Ennis-Hill is one of the athletes involved.
Minichiello was found guilty of:
» 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 enquiries and personal 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.
UKA’s statement added: “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. Should Mr Minichiello wish to apply for a Coach Licence in the future, the matter will ultimately be subject to an appeal before the relevant body under UKA Rules.
“UKA will share the outcome of this adjudication and decision relating to any future licence application with both UK Sport and the AIU for their awareness. UKA wishes to recognise those who came forward to give evidence in this case. We thank them and strongly encourage anyone with a concern to come forward.”
In a statement, Minichiello said he “strongly denied all the statements”, adding: “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.”
Minichiello was also critical of the investigation process, calling it “one sided” and continued: “One of the most serious allegations was said to have taken place when I was, as a matter of fact, in a different country to the person making the allegations. The tribunal refused to admit my evidence on this point and found against me as a result.
“There were many instances of witnesses providing suspiciously similar answers to questions, including demonstrably incorrect ones, suggestive of collusion; again, the tribunal failed to appropriately address their minds to the important issue of collusion which was evident throughout significant parts of the evidence.
“There were also instances of witnesses breaching confidentiality to speak to each other during the course of the investigation, which the tribunal failed to address.”
The governing body asks that anyone with a conduct concern should go here.
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