Olympics pole vault coach Jeremy McColl has been banned from any involvement in athletics for 10 years for serious misconduct and breach of Athletics New Zealand policies.
McColl, who guided Kiwi pole vaulter Eliza McCartney to Olympics bronze in 2016, was the subject of a number of complaints raised with Athletics New Zealand in May 2023 by athletes he coached or worked with.
Those complaints were referred to an independent investigator appointed through the Sports and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service (SRCMS).
The investigation found that McColl had acted improperly in a number of ways, including the improper treatment of athletes in the coaching environment (including failure to adequately manage injuries), inappropriate comments to athletes in training sessions, findings of harassment and of inappropriate communication with athletes through social media and text messages.
Aggravating features of the conduct included communication with athletes that involved inappropriate sexual references and that a number of the athletes were minors.
McColl co-operated with the SRCMS investigation, and following receipt of the report’s finding, tendered his resignation to Athletics New Zealand. He has also agreed that it would be inappropriate for him to continue to be involved in the sport. Athletics New Zealand has accepted his resignation and McColl will be banned from any involvement in athletics in New Zealand for 10 years.
In tendering his resignation, McColl said: “I unreservedly apologise for the harm caused to these athletes and recognise that my conduct was not in line with Athletics NZ’s policies or rules and was harmful and inappropriate.”
Athletics New Zealand said it is aware of reports suggesting that McColl may also be the subject of a police investigation: “Athletics NZ will co-operate with any investigation undertaken by appropriate authorities, including the police.”
Athletics New Zealand apologised to the athletes involved and said new systems have been put in place.
“Safety in sport is critically important to Athletics NZ. Sport should be a fun, healthy, safe and enjoyable experience,” Athletics New Zealand said in a statement.
“Athletics NZ learnt considerable lessons following an incident which occurred approximately 10 years ago, and subsequently put in place new systems to educate athletes and coaches around safe practices. Policies were also put in place to strengthen the investigation and actioning of any further instances in our sport. Those systems and policies are working and are regularly monitored and reviewed.
“Athletics NZ wishes to apologise to the athletes involved for the harm they have suffered while training with Mr McColl. A key part of building and protecting a culture of safety is ensuring that unsafe and inappropriate actions are called out, investigated, and action taken.
“Athletics NZ recognises the courage of the athletes who came forward to raise their concerns in this case. Those athletes, and all involved in the process, are entitled to be treated respectfully, and to have their privacy respected. That is critical for participants in our sport to have the confidence to raise complaints, for those complaints to be fully and fairly investigated and actioned, and for those involved in those processes to be appropriately supported.
“For Athletics NZ’s systems to work, confidentiality around complaints, particularly from vulnerable athletes, must be respected. Similarly, the processes designed to fully and fairly investigate complaints, and to give those involved an opportunity to have their say in a safe and confidential environment, must also be respected.
“With this in mind, the report into Mr McColl’s conduct will remain confidential to those involved. Athletics NZ will be making no further public comment about the circumstances or subject matter of this situation.
“In closing, Athletics NZ would like to again highlight the courage of those athletes who spoke up in this case to bring their complaints forward. It is only when people speak up about things that they can be investigated and action taken. We acknowledge and are extremely proud of the courage, commitment and resolve the athletes and those supporting them have shown in coming forward and in helping us to address this matter.”