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British athletics coach banned for life for sexual misconduct

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LONDON — The coach who helped British athletics star Jessica Ennis-Hill win Olympic and world titles was effectively banned for life on Tuesday for misconduct, including “sexually physical behavior” with unidentified athletes over a period 15 years old.

Tony Minichiello was found guilty by a court of four counts amounting to “flagrant breach of trust”, the Governing body for athletics in the UK said.

Minichiello’s misconduct against athletes included unwanted touching, “inappropriate sexual references and gestures”, and “aggressive behavior, bullying and emotional abuse”.

“They constitute gross breaches of trust by Mr Minichiello which have had serious consequences for the mental health and mental well-being of the athletes under his care,” UK Athletics said.

He thanked and congratulated the athletes who testified against the British coach, without naming them. It was unclear whether Ennis-Hill had been a witness.

“I cannot fully express my disappointment with this decision and the unfair handling of this process by UK Athletics,” Minichiello said in a statement. “I have been a coach for over 30 years and although I have been tough and demanding, I have not behaved inappropriately towards any of my athletes, as many of them would confirm.”

Minichiello made his name guiding the Ennis-Hill heptathlon star to three world titles from 2009 to 2015, and Olympic gold and silver medals.

Ennis-Hill’s gold medal performance at the London 2012 Games on home soil ended on the so-called ‘Super Saturday’ at the Olympic Stadium which has become part of British sporting tradition. She won silver in her title defense at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.

Although the coach could not be disciplined by athletics authorities because his license expired during the pursuit, he was effectively expelled by the sport.

“As a result, the UKA have decided that they will not accept any future applications made by Mr Minichiello for a UKA coaching license in perpetuity,” the UK track body said.

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