Anna Gordon, Kate Seary and Mhairi Maclennan have written an open letter to UK Athletics regarding the sanctions handed to coaches found to have broken the conditions of their licence in abuse-related cases
British athletes are calling for zero-tolerance lifetime bans for coaches who are found to have broken the conditions of their coaching licence in cases relating to physical or sexual misconduct, harassment or abuse.
An open letter sent from former pole vaulter Anna Gordon, Welsh international runner Kate Seary and GB international Mhairi Maclennan to UK Athletics (UKA) CEO Joanna Coates on Friday (February 12) has already been signed in support by more than 200 names, including athlete turned coach Helen Clitheroe, world 4x400m medallist Lina Nielsen, Olympian Ross Millington and world 50km record-holder Aly Dixon.
It has also received support from athletes over in the USA, with multiple Olympic and world gold medallist Tianna Bartoletta having taken the campaign to her social media channels.
Addressed to Coates, the letter begins: “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.
“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.”
It continues: “It is positive that UK Athletics is entitled to withdraw a coaching licence at any time for any breach of condition 6.1 of the Coach Licence Terms and Conditions. However, it is concerning that some coaches are still only being given temporary or restricted bans. We feel that anything less than a full and permanent ban is unacceptable in cases of physical or sexual misconduct, harassment or abuse.
“We therefore call for a zero-tolerance policy regarding any physical or sexual misconduct towards athletes in our sport. If any coach is found to have broken the Coach Licence Terms and Conditions regarding abuse of this nature, we believe their license should be permanently revoked. 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 sent to AW, Gordon said: “We have written this letter to ensure athletes now and in the future are safe doing their sport. We believe that athlete welfare should be the priority of UK Athletics and a zero-tolerance policy would be a step towards this. We are incredibly humbled by the support we have had so far and thank those who have reached out with their kind words from the athletics community. We hope this can make a difference to the lives of all athletes.”
Issuing their own statement, 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 on [email protected].”
The full letter sent from Gordon, Seary and Maclennan to UKA with additional signed names is here.