Athletics coach Toni Minichiello banned for life over inappropriate conduct

Toni Minichiello was provisionally suspended last year and has now been banned for life. ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

Editor's note: This story contains details that may be disturbing for some readers.

Toni Minichiello, who guided Britain's Jessica Ennis-Hill to a heptathlon gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics, has been banned for life after a disciplinary panel appointed by the UK Athletics Board found him to have engaged in sexually inappropriate behaviour.

Minichiello was provisionally suspended last year pending an investigation into complaints from female athletes. The panel on Tuesday announced Minichiello had made inappropriate sexual references and gestures to athletes.

The panel added that he also failed to respect the athletes' right to a private life by making intrusive enquiries and comments about their personal lives and engaged in unwanted sexual contact.

He engaged in inappropriate and sometimes aggressive behaviour, bullying as well as emotional abuse, the panel said.

In a statement, Minichiello strongly denied all the charges made against him and said he had not behaved inappropriately towards any of his athletes while claiming he had not been given a fair trial.

He said the investigation was "one-sided" and had "failed to engage properly with the available evidence."

"I cannot fully express my disappointment with this decision and with UK Athletics' unfair handling of this process," Minichiello said. "I strongly deny all the charges made against me.

"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 inappropriate gestures and references Minichiello was found to have made included imitating oral sex.

The disciplinary panel also found that the coach had made inappropriate comments about athletes' relationships and boyfriends, had asked an athlete whether she had ever had sex while doing weights and had told an athlete that she would "never get married" and "never have kids."

Minichiello was found to have mimicked sexual activity with three athletes, touched an athlete's breasts and commented on and touched another athlete's breasts, while he was also found to have placed an athlete in a corner with a cone on her head as a dunce's cap.

"UKA has considered the matter and decided that these findings are of the utmost seriousness," the governing body said in a statement. "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 Minichiello which have had severe consequences for the mental health and mental wellbeing of the athletes under his charge.

"It is noted that during the process of these disciplinary matters, Minichiello's coaching licence expired and therefore cannot be suspended/subject to a sanction. Therefore, UKA has decided it will not entertain any future application made by Minichiello for a UKA Coach Licence in perpetuity."