Ex-wife of shamed Toni Minichiello says some claims 'don't add up'

Ex-wife of sex shame athletics coach Toni Minichiello says Jessica Ennis-Hill’s former coach is a ‘big personality who ruffles feathers’ but insists some of the claims against him ‘don’t add up’

  • Nicola Minichiello said her former husband undoubtedly ‘ruffles a lot of feathers’
  • The former athletics coach is facing sexual misconduct charges across 15 years
  • His ex-wife, 44, did not say whether she believed the allegations against him
  • She couldn’t disagree with his claims he’s been the victim of a ‘witch hunt’

The ex-wife of Jessica Ennis-Hill’s sex shame athletics coach Toni Minichiello today described him as ‘a big personality who ruffles feathers’ – but said some of the claims against him ‘don’t add up’.

Nicola Minichiello was herself coached by him and went on to become his wife, separating 16 years ago.

Former Olympic bobsledder Nicola, 44, who lives with her partner and their children in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, declined to answer when asked whether she believed the allegations against him.

Former Olympic bobsledder Nicola Minichiello, 44, (pictured) was coached by Toni during her heptathlon career. She later married him before switching sports. The couple separated more than 16 years ago and she now lives in Middlesbrough with her partner and their children. 

She said: ‘I don’t really want to get involved in it, it’s been a long, long time since we were separated. I think it is really unfortunate, I think it is very sad and there are lots of different factors to it.’

However Nicola admitted Minichiello ‘ruffled feathers’ and said she couldn’t disagree with his claims he’s been the victim of a ‘witch hunt.’

She said: ‘It’s a difficult situation all round, an emotive situation. Toni feels that some of it has perhaps been a bit of a witch hunt and I can’t argue with him, some of the facts don’t quite add up but there are obviously a lot of different factors.

‘He’s been a very successful coach but also he has a big personality. There is no question about it, he ruffles a lot of feathers.’

Toni Minichiello, 56, is facing sexual misconduct charges over alleged incidents across 15 years, including ‘dry-humping’ athletes. He has been handed a life ban by UK Athletics. He denies the charges and said he could not ‘fully express’ his disappointment with the ban. 

She and her former spouse are still in contact, she said, so she was aware of the allegations before the news broke.

She said: ‘I wasn’t surprised because I’ve spoken to Toni a few times in the last few months and so I saw the different situations.’

She was a budding heptathlete when she met her husband-to-be when he became her coach.

The former Olympic bobsledder said she could not disagree with his claims that he’s been the victim of a ‘witch hunt’.  She added: ‘It’s a difficult situation all round, an emotive situation.’

A young Jessica Ennis-Hill was a more junior member of the team coached by Minichiello at the same time.

Nicola later switched disciplines and competed at three Winter Olympics in the bobsleigh event, also becoming the first British bobsleigh driver to become world champion in 2009 along with her partner Gillian Cooke.

Toni Minichiello was handed what is effectively a lifetime ban by UK Athletics after being found to have committed ‘gross breaches of trust’ with sexually inappropriate conduct.

The 56-year-old, who had been subject of multiple complaints from women in athletics, was found to have committed 11 serious charges by an independent case-management group. Some other charges were not proven.

Jessica Ennis-Hill broke her silence on his sexual misconduct allegations last night. The former athlete said the claims were ‘shocking and upsetting’ but added she was ‘never on the receiving end of any sexual physical behaviour’.  Toni Minichiello coached her during the London 2012 Olympics.

Toni Minichiello pictured with  Ennis-Hill at the London Olympics in 2012 was suspended in May 2021 but it was announced yesterday that he will no longer be permitted to hold a licence in ‘perpetuity’. 

An independent panel found Minichiello’s actions to ‘have had severe consequences for the mental health and mental wellbeing of the athletes under his charge’ over a period of 15 years.

His coaching licence has expired and UKA says it has decided that it will not entertain any future application made by him.

‘UKA is firmly of the view that there will never be a time in the future at which it would be appropriate to grant that assurance and issue such a licence,’ it said.

Minichiello said he was ‘disappointed’ with the decision and the process and strongly denies the charges.

The athletics coach strongly denies the claims and has said he has not been ‘treated fairly’ by UK Athletics. He has been a coach for over 30 years.  

The panel has found Minichiello:

  • Made inappropriate sexual references and gestures to athletes.
  • Failed to respect the athletes’ rights to a private life by making intrusive enquiries and personal comments about their personal lives.
  • Engaged in sexually physical behaviour, namely inappropriate and unwanted touching of athletes to whom he owed a duty of care. 
  • Engaged in inappropriate and sometimes aggressive behaviour, bullying and emotional abuse. 


I cannot fully express my disappointment with this decision and with UK Athletics’ unfair handling of this process. I strongly deny all the charges against me.

I have been a coach for over 30 years and while I have been robust and demanding, I have not behaved inappropriately towards any of my athletes as very many of them would confirm.

From the beginning, I cooperated with UK Athletics and the appointed Independent Investigator. Unfortunately, the investigation was one-sided. For example, I offered to provide UK Athletics with the names and contact details of 80 witnesses, including my then current training group. UK Athletics declined the list of those witnesses.

While repeatedly requesting details as to how the investigation was being conducted, this was only provided by UK Athletics in a witness statement shortly before the hearing of this matter, over a year after my provisional suspension, raising serious questions regarding my ability to gain a fair hearing.

Similarly, the tribunal failed to engage properly with the available evidence. For example, one of the most serious allegations was said to have taken place when I was, as a matter of fact, in a different country to the person making the allegations. The tribunal refused to admit my evidence on this point and found against me as a result.

There were many instances of witnesses providing suspiciously similar answers to questions, including demonstrably incorrect ones, suggestive of collusion; again, the tribunal failed to appropriately address their minds to the important issue of collusion which was evident throughout significant parts of the evidence.

There were also instances of witnesses breaching confidentiality to speak to each other during the course of the investigation, which the tribunal failed to address.

It is very important that UK Athletics respond quickly and seriously to serious allegations of misconduct, especially when those allegations are made by young people. However, those investigations and tribunals need to be conducted carefully, with due process and fairly. I do not believe that I have been treated fairly in this instance.

I would like to show my appreciation to the witnesses who came forward to support me, and also give my appreciation and complete understanding to the witnesses who wished to come forward to support me but were unable to do so being concerned by the possibility of negative repercussions for their future careers.

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