Athletics: Rumour, innuendo and death of a coach

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The Independent Online
ANDY NORMAN'S behaviour with regard to Cliff Temple, the athletics writer and coach who was found dead by a railway line on 8 January, formed only a part of the considerations in the disciplinary proceedings.

The inquiry - conducted by Professor Peter Radford, executive chairman of the British Athletic Federation with the assistance of David Tannick, QC - concerned itself, in the words of the BAF spokesman, with whether Norman had acted in a way that was 'becoming' to his position as promotions officer.

Radford was at pains to point out that there would be no attempt to apportion blame for Temple's death. That, he said, would be a matter for the coroner to decide on 21 April.

But the question of whether Norman should continue in his position was brought to a head by his alleged harassment of Temple when the journalist was coming to terms with a painful divorce and consequent financial problems.

The sequence of events began in July last year, when Temple was working on an article which subsequently appeared in the Sunday Times on 1 August, in which he was critical of Norman's 'all- pervading control' within the sport. The article also questioned the operation of Chafford Hundred, the commercial club established for elite athletes by Norman's fiancee, Fatima Whitbread.

The Sunday Times has given Radford a tape recording of a phone conversation between Norman and Temple on 23 July. In it, Norman intimated that if harmful material was published about Whitbread, an allegation might be spread that Temple had molested Shireen Bailey, an athlete whom Temple had coached to the Olympic 1500 metres final in 1988.

Temple rang Bailey immediately afterwards, also taping the conversation, and asked her if she had made a complaint. 'Don't be ridiculous,' she said. 'He's having you on. He's probably trying to frighten you or something.'

On 28 July, before publishing the article, the Sunday Times wrote to the BAF complaining about the telephone call and the allegations made. The federation replied that it took the matter very seriously and would be taking action. That was the last the Sunday Times heard before Temple's death.

Tony Ward, the BAF spokesman, revealed after Temple's death that an internal inquiry had taken place 'late in September', led by Radford and the BAF treasurer, John Lister. The charges were not denied.

The day after Temple's article was published, the TV commentator Peter Matthews and Eamonn Martin's coach, Mel Batty, who were travelling to Cologne on the same plane as Norman, said the promotions officer had voiced the allegation against Temple.

During the championships Temple spoke to several friends about his anxiety over the situation with Norman, and of what people might think of him if rumours were spread. On his return from Stuttgart, Temple suffered a breakdown. He was being treated for clinical depression until the time of his death.

After Temple's death, his club, Folkestone AC, called for Norman to be suspended pending an independent inquiry. Norman has been officially on leave since disciplinary proceedings were instituted on 5 February, and delayed the hearing until 30 March after producing a sick note.