UK Athletics is on a potential collision course with two of the country’s leading sprinters, who are considering defying orders from the governing body to cease contact with their coach after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct were made against him.
Adam Gemili and Daryll Neita, winners of numerous Olympic and world medals between them, were last week told to leave Rana Reider’s Florida-based group or be removed from UK Athletics’s programme, and lose their associated funding.
Neither athlete has so far left the group. It is understood they do not yet feel they have sufficient information about the nature of the allegations to walk away from a coach who has built a reputation as one of the best in the world.
Should they decide to ignore UK Athletics’s demands, they would effectively take the unprecedented step of quitting the national programme. While they would still be eligible to compete for Britain, they would relinquish funding and associated medical help.
Mark Munro, UK Athletics interim chief executive, said: “We’re in constant communication with athletes trying to find solutions based on whatever decisions they make. But those conversations are ongoing so I can’t give you an answer in terms of what they plan to do.
“We’re giving them the time within the next few weeks to make sure that it’s the right environment for them going forward and, ultimately, to make their decisions.
“Whether it’s the Rana situation or whether it’s any other coach, we need to make sure that we are protecting our athletes first and foremost. They are the number one priority for us. We need to make sure that the environment is as safe as it needs to be.”
Reider’s lawyer, Ryan Stevens, has confirmed the US Center for SafeSport – an independent organisation that handles allegations of abuse within Olympic and Paralympic sports – has assigned an investigator, but says his client has not yet been given notification of the allegations.
SafeSport told Telegraph Sport it does not reveal details of investigations, but UK Athletics said a SafeSport investigation is imminent. Gemili and Neita have declined to comment.
Athletics Canada last week confirmed it had suspended any payments to Reider, who coached Canadian Andre De Grasse to Olympic 200 metres gold in Japan.
Meanwhile, UK Athletics has initiated talks over domestic athletics returning to the BBC. There was widespread anger within the sport when this year’s British Olympic trials were the first this century not to be shown on television after the expiration of UK Athletics’s long-term BBC contract worth more than £2million a year.
Former chief executive Jo Coates had previously suggested a terrestrial television deal was not crucial, but Munro hinted at a different strategy.
“I think we’ve all probably grown up watching athletics on the BBC,” he said. “So for us, it’s a shop window for the sport and we’re very keen if we can find a way forward to working in partnership.
“We’ve had a great partnership for a long time with the BBC. So hopefully we can get athletics back on the BBC.
“We’ve certainly been in contact with the BBC to progress that. But we’ve not had any substantial conversations yet. But certainly having those conversations is something we want to do on both sides.”