A coach found guilty of inappropriate behaviour towards athletes in his care has had his licence permanently withdrawn by UK Athletics. John Lees was found guilty on five charges by an independent appeal committee of UKA and admitted two others.
Lees was found guilty of giving a massage to an athlete aged under 18 in 2018 and abusing her repeatedly by touching her breast area and buttocks. The committee also unanimously upheld charges that he made sexualised comments to an athlete while stretching her lower body in late 2013 or early 2014, massaged the same athlete and touched her vagina, caused injury to an athlete by administering a chiropractic adjustment in the autumn of 2016 and provided similar adjustments to other athletes when not qualified to do so between 2009 and 2020.
He also admitted massaging an athlete aged under 18 at his home, and making inappropriate and sexualised comments to athletes in his training group.
The panel concluded of Lees : “We are left with the view that he habitually behaved inappropriately, had disregard for the rules and, as we have already noted, had no idea of boundaries.”
The UKA’s interim chief executive, Mark Munro, said: “We are pleased with the decision by the panel. Athletics cannot tolerate the type of behaviour highlighted in this case. This decision shows that welfare is at the front and centre of UK Athletics’ concerns and at the heart of what we stand for.
“It has taken great courage for the athletes abused in this case to come forward and give evidence against this coach. We thank them and would strongly encourage any individual who considers that they have been abused by anyone within the sport to come forward.
“It is essential that we challenge any negative culture or poor behaviours and we will tirelessly seek to identify and remove from the sport anyone who abuses the trust reposed in them by athletes and UK Athletics.”