More than 200 athletes call for abusive coaches to get lifetime bans

By Laura ScottBBC Sport
Athletics track
The petition has also drawn international attention

More than 200 athletes have signed an open letter to UK Athletics chief executive Joanna Coates calling for permanent bans for coaches found guilty of abuse.

Three British athletes started the campaign raising concerns about temporary bans being handed to coaches who breach their licences in the context of physical or sexual misconduct, harassment or abuse.

"We feel that anything less than a full and permanent ban is unacceptable," they wrote to Coates.external-link

They said they wanted the governing body to have a "zero-tolerance policy regarding abuse towards athletes".

UKA responded by saying it understood the concerns raised but lifetime bans "can be susceptible to strong and robust legal challenge".

Scottish pole vaulter Anna Gordon, Welsh indoor 1500m champion Kate Seary and Scottish cross country champion Mhairi MacLennan wrote the letter and invited athletes, coaches and parents to sign.

Double Olympian and European champion Helen Clitheroe, who has since become an England Athletics coach, and Olympic pole vaulter Nick Buckfield are among the signatories.

It has also drawn international attention, with Olympic long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta adding her name.

"We are writing to you on behalf of the athletics community across the UK who deserve to be safe and protected whilst enjoying the sport that they love," the letter said.

"Recent events have highlighted that some coaches who have broken the conditions of their coaching license - specifically in the context of physical or sexual misconduct, harassment or abuse - will be eligible for reinstatement after temporary bans.

"The potential risks of this policy are obvious, and to protect the safety of all athletes we feel that these cases cannot be resolved using arbitrary decisions that consider any professional future for these coaches."

They added: "We want an end to short-term or restricted bans and a move to consistent, transparent rulings with the welfare of athletes at the heart of decisions."

In a statement to BBC Sport, UKA said: "Physical or sexual abuse is obviously very serious, contrary to our regulations and codes, and we would investigate anything raised with us fully and ultimately take it to a hearing. These are also likely to involve criminal law offences and we raise with and work with police and other relevant agencies.

"However, the application of permanent sanctions such as lifetime bans can be susceptible to strong and robust legal challenge. Whilst time specific bans mean in theory an individual can reapply for a license at a future date, the sport then can review whether or not to permit them to re-enter the sport.

"We understand the concerns highlighted with the petition, we are committed to making our sport safe and we urge anyone to come forward to us with any issues."

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