UK Athletics’ decision to fine Kyle Langford, the Commonwealth 800m silver medallist, £1,000 for an incident in which he appeared to grab a 74-year-old official by the throat has been criticised as “lenient” and “derisory” by leading coaches.
Langford, who also finished fourth at the 2017 world championships, escaped a suspension but did get a fine and a final written warning for pushing the official at an athletics meeting in Watford last month. He was also ordered to spend a day doing “athletics-based community service”.
However Toni Minichiello, who coached Jessica Ennis-Hill to gold at London 2012 and is on the UKA members council, said Langford had got off far too lightly.
“I’m gobsmacked at how lenient this is,” he said. “It is a massive error of judgment by the disciplinary panel. You should never lay your hands on an official and if it was one of my athletes I would have kicked them out of my training group.
“Paolo Di Canio got an 11-match ban for pushing Paul Alcock and I can’t think of any sport in which an athlete wouldn’t get suspended for such behaviour. It creates a worrying and uncomfortable precedent.”
Dave Collins, the performance director of UK Athletics between 2004 and 2008, said he was also surprised at the punishment. “If Kyle had done this in a bar, such behaviour could have got him nicked. Yes it’s on a sporting field but what really is different here?” he asked. “The fine is derisory.”
Collins, who is a respected performance psychologist who works in talent academies in multiple sports, added: “All athletes I work with are very aware of the standard of behaviour which is expected of them. This falls far, far below that.”
Langford’s fine will be donated to charity, while his community service will be to assist officials at an athletics event with junior athletes.
A UK Athletics statement said: “His actions – which the athlete has readily admitted – fell well below the standard expected. The investigation took into account the immediate apologies issued to the official concerned thereafter.”
A video published on social media showed Langford remonstrating and then lunging at an official who had issued him with a red card for warming up on the track while a 5,000m race was going on – although his supporters insist he pushed the official rather than grabbed him by the throat.
The 23-year-old did apologise and was allowed to run that night. He later tweeted: “My behaviour fell well short of what it should be. I have apologised to the official involved and have also followed up in writing, but I know that this wasn’t acceptable and I apologise that I behaved in that way.”