May 7, 2020 / 3:55 PM / 21 days ago

UK Athletics review identifies 'culture of mistrust'

(Reuters) - An independent review into UK Athletics (UKA) has identified a “general culture of mistrust” within the organisation and concluded that the sport “is not currently in a good position”, according to a summary of findings released on Thursday.

The review into Britain’s under fire track and field governing body was commissioned by funding agency UK Sport in February after a turbulent 15 months in which UK Athletics lost its CEO, performance director and chair.

UK Athletics was also criticised for its handling of the fallout from the Alberto Salazar scandal, notably its decision to allow Britain’s Olympic champion Mo Farah to continue training at the Nike Orgeon Project despite concerns raised in 2015 about the American track coach who ran the project.

Salazar was banned from athletics for four years in October after being found guilty of doping violations following a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation.

He has denied any wrongdoing and appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against his ban.

Farah, who returned home to England in late 2017, has never failed a drugs test and has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

“The scars inflicted as a result of the period of difficulty within athletics are clear to see,” the review said.

“Many of the participants that were interviewed highlighted a disappointment at having experienced poor behaviours within the sport.”

It added that UK Athletics was accused by participants in the review of adopting a defensive approach when engaging with stakeholders and that it had often been referenced that the current state of athletics ‘couldn’t get any worse’.

Among the review’s key recommendations was the need for a more positive, collaborative approach and the appointment of an independent chair.

“Ethical considerations will become increasingly finely balanced,” it said. “It is paramount that levels of authority in relation to decision-making on the ‘grey areas’ are crystal clear.”

The review added that all its recommendations should have clear timelines for implementation, and that UKA would have to submit a plan for reform of its board by the end of September.

The board changes would have to be made by the end of December, it said.

UK Sport was advised to reflect on its role and consider the appropriate level of intervention to adopt for sports in crisis.

“It is important that UK Sport recognises situations in which it is appropriate to take a more interventionist approach, and how it would do that. This is particularly relevant in relation to board appointments,” the review said.

UK Athletics said in a statement here that it was "committed to working together positively and collectively to support the recommended change plan."

CEO Sally Munday said UK Sport hoped the review would mark the beginning of a new chapter for British athletics.

“We believe this can be the springboard needed for one of our most popular sports to flourish,” she added.

Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris

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