England Athletics and UKA show that trolls and bullies on the internet will no longer be tolerated by track and field governing bodies
Paul Baxter, an athletics official from Yorkshire, is believed to have become the first person to receive a ban from UK Athletics for online abuse.
Baxter, a former member of City of York AC, has been given a three-and-a-half year ban from the sport for online bullying and harassment of Katey Ross, a former athlete who acts as an administrator on the popular Facebook group “I Was, Or Am A Runner!”
Baxter was charged by England Athletics with “making a number of inappropriate, threatening, bullying or harassing online posts” toward Ross, who waived her anonymity in the case.
Baxter, who is a prominent figure in the Northern Athletics scene and works as an estate agent in Yorkshire, resigned from his club during the investigation and following an inquiry by an independent panel he has admitted four of the five charges.
Concerns that anti-bullying policies would not apply in an online case proved unfounded, which marks a step forward for safeguarding in sport. The case has received coverage in The Times and the full details are listed on the UKA website here.
In addition to having his membership and association of athletics-related activities terminated and his official’s licence revoked for three-and-a-half years, Baxter is forbidden from holding any position of responsibility for a further 18 months and must attend a training course on equality, diversity, inclusion, safeguarding and anti-bullying in sport before he can return to athletics.
The charges included Baxter pursuing “a course of conduct online amounting to harassment… This included making a number of inappropriate, threatening, bullying or harassing online posts of Facebook about an athlete which made her feel intimidated, alarmed or distressed or otherwise fear for her personal safety”.
Baxter posted under his real name and not anonymously and his behaviour was judged to have broken multiple sections in the Code of Conduct for Officials and Volunteers.
Ross said: “This landmark is case sending out a very clear message to others that in athletics engaging in online abuse may lead to a real-life ban.
“The behaviour of Paul Baxter – and the other men who contributed to his abusive posts – sadly illustrates the wider problem of misogyny in sport; a problem women in all areas of athletics — coaching, officiating, committee members, media etc — will unfortunately be only too aware of.
“Reporting abuse of any kind isn’t easy. Women who raise awareness of abuse in sport being attacked online by men for daring to do so, is something that happens far too often. In athletics I hope it may happen a little less now.”
AW understands that investigations are ongoing relating to people in athletics who interacted with Baxter during his abusive posts.
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