UK Athletics reveal suspension of Toni Minichiello, former coach of Jessica Ennis-Hill, after coaching breach

UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee and Jessica Ennis' coach Toni Minichiello watch the Heptathlon - GETTY IMAGES
UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee and Jessica Ennis' coach Toni Minichiello watch the Heptathlon - GETTY IMAGES

Toni Minichiello, one of Britain’s most prominent coaches and the man who guided Jessica Ennis-Hill to Olympic glory, has reportedly breached his coaching suspension, prompting UK Athletics to confirm for the first time that he has been temporarily banned “following complaints from female athletes”.

News of Minichiello’s suspension pending investigation emerged last month, but the governing body declined to comment on the matter. That changed yesterday when UK Athletics went public after Minichiello was reportedly seen coaching in Sheffield.

“In light of a recent significant development, UK Athletics believes that it is important to issue this statement to the public clarifying the status of Mr Minichiello,” said a spokesperson. “Following complaints from female athletes, an investigation was commenced concerning Mr Minichiello’s behaviour. That investigation is ongoing.

“In the course of any investigation of this type, the normal position under UK Athletics’ regulations is that the coach under investigation has their coaching licence provisionally suspended. As a person under investigation, Mr Minichiello’s licence was (and remains) suspended pending the conclusion of that investigation. UK Athletics is not in a position to say when that will be, but it is pursuing that investigation expeditiously.

“In the interests of all concerned, UK Athletics initially resolved not to publicly announce Mr Minichiello’s suspension. However, UK Athletics has recently been made aware that Mr Minichiello has apparently breached the terms of his suspension. Specifically, Mr Minichiello has been seen coaching athletes at a facility in Sheffield, in clear contravention of the express terms of his suspension. For this reason, and to avoid similar occurrences in the future, UK Athletics has no alternative but to make the suspended status of Mr Minichiello public.”

The governing body reiterated that Minichiello remained “innocent until proven guilty”. Telegraph Sport has attempted to contact Minichiello for comment. Minichiello started working with Ennis-Hill when she was 13, guiding her to Olympic and three world heptathlon titles during her illustrious career. Since Ennis-Hill’s retirement in 2016, he has worked primarily with lower-level athletes, although in February he announced he was joining forces with Ennis-Hill to look after former world junior heptathlon champion Niamh Emerson.

Minichiello has also regularly worked as a BBC pundit on its athletics coverage in recent years, although he has not been included in the broadcaster’s coverage of the Tokyo Olympics. He has faced disciplinary action in the past and was issued with an official written warning in 2017 when he was accused of using abusive language towards a female athlete he used to coach.

He was interviewed for the role of UK Athletics Olympics head coach last year after making the shortlist of candidates but was beaten to the position by former sprinter Christian Malcolm.