Norman denies campaign against athletics writer: Sacked promoter expresses sorrow at journalist's death

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ANDY NORMAN, sacked as the British Athletic Federation's promotions officer, last night denied making allegations of sexual harassment against the athletics writer and coach Cliff Temple, who killed himself three months ago.

Speaking for the first time about the controversy which has sent shock waves through British athletics, Mr Norman, who expressed his 'deep personal sorrow' at Mr Temple's death, said: 'There was no campaign of any kind by me against Mr Temple. Various elements in a complicated story have been taken completely out of context. Cliff was a long- standing friend whom I held in the highest regard.'

Mr Norman was sacked from his pounds 65,000-a-year job after an inquiry conducted by the BAF executive chairman, Peter Radford.

Mr Radford has since expressly cleared Mr Temple's name of any imputation that he ever acted with sexual impropriety towards athletes.

Although Mr Radford denied that it was the inquiry's job to apportion any blame in connection with Mr Temple's death - he said that was the job of the coroner's inquest which takes place on Thursday - the pressure to hold the inquiry stemmed largely from various reports that Mr Norman had spread allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr Temple immediately after Mr Temple had written a critical article about him in the Sunday Times on 1 August. Part of a phone conversation with Mr Norman which Mr Temple taped on 23 July last year has been widely broadcast.

In it, Mr Norman said allegations might be made about Mr Temple if he published anything harmful to Norman's fiancee Fatima Whitbread, who runs the Chafford Hundred marketing club for elite athletes. When Mr Temple asked Mr Norman what he meant, he replied: 'Sexual harassment. You know what the fucking hell I'm talking about.'

Mr Norman said yesterday that that conversation had to be set in the context of an earlier incident in 1987-88, when he said he was asked by other athletes to assist in solving a problem which had arisen between Cliff Temple - in his role as a coach - and one of the athletes who was in his care, Shireen Bailey.

The athletes, he said, believed Cliff Temple was trying to exercise more control over her private life than was appropriate. Mr Norman said there was never any suggestion at this time of any sexual impropriety, but added that in a subsequent informal conversation, he had suggested to Mr Temple that in America Mr Temple's conduct might be viewed as 'sexual harassment'.

Several journalists and respected figures in the sport told the inquiry that Mr Norman had accused Mr Temple of sexual harassment after the critical article was published.

Randall Northam, chairman of British Athletics Writers' Association, said yesterday: 'We are glad that Andy Norman has at last expressed his sadness at Cliff's death. But we have to ask why he did not tell Cliff, who he says was a long- standing friend, that he had not intended to accuse him of sexual harassment. Contrary to his statement, he spread the rumours voluntarily to me and others.'

(Photograph omitted)