A former England Athletics council member and director has been banned from acting as an official in the sport’s national governing body for three years after suggesting that black athletes are good runners “because they have to get away from their burglaries”.
Julian Starkey, who was previously also the chair of Bracknell Athletics Club and a licenced coach, was accused of making the comment at a Sporting Equals Leadership event in November of last year.
According to the report of a UK Athletics Disciplinary Panel, it was alleged that he said the following or similar words in response to a question about participation rates drop off in ethnically diverse athletes: “Usually when athletes start to be more specific in events, most black athletes tend to edge towards sprinting and hurdling … the blacks are all good at running because they have to get away from their burglaries.”
The case was brought on behalf of both England Athletics and UK Athletics.
In explaining the three year ban from holding an officials position in either organisation, the disciplinary panel said that they felt “that holding a position in the governance structures of the national bodies was a higher position, and people in the sport should rightly look up to the people in those positions”. It was therefore concluded that a two year exclusion “was too lenient when considering the severity of the misconduct”.
The panel’s report says that Starkey admitted that he had made the comment “subject to the caveat that there was a gap between the first sentence and the second sentence” and offered mitigation of “mental issue challenges” that he was facing at the time.
UK Athletics accepted that he was suffering from mental health problems but did not believe that this mitigated against the misconduct.
“He had behaved in a manner which England Athletics considered disgraceful,” says the report.
In its written decision, the panel said that “the comment made was a serious act of misconduct, and was totally unacceptable”, adding that, “even taking into account the Claimant’s mental health, the comment was shocking”.
Starkey, who is 62, resigned from his non executive roles at England Athletics in December and has had his UK Athletics coach and officials licences revoked for two years.
He has also had his membership of England Athletics suspended for six months and been issued with a “warning in respect of the serious misconduct committed”. Before reapplying to join England Athletics, he is required to complete diversity education or training.
A statement from England Athletics said: “England Athletics operates a zero-tolerance approach towards discrimination and is committed to ensuring the sport of athletics provides an inclusive, safe, and welcoming environment for everyone. Anyone wishing to report any incidents of discrimination is urged to do so through the appropriate channels.”