By Mike Rowbottom

Kevin Tyler's links with Ben Johnson has led to Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates effectively blocking him becoming the country's new athletics head coach ©UK AthleticsA statement issued by John Coates, President of the Australian Olympic Committee, has effectively blocked controversial Canadian Kevin Tyler's candidacy for the vacant job as the country's head athletics coach by saying he would never be allowed to become part of the team at the Games.


Tyler is a former training partner of disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson, the Canadian stripped of his Olympic 100 metres gold medal at Seoul 1988 after testing positive for banned anabolic steroids. 

Tyler denied accusations given under oath by the man who coached them both, Charlie Francis, that he took performance-enhancing drugs in the 1980s while a top-level sprinter and bobsledder.

The Canadian, who worked as head of coaching and development for UK Athletics during London 2012, was suspected of being the man who upset soon-to-be Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis by calling her "fat" - although neither Ennis nor her coach Toni Minichiello have ever said on the record who made the comment.

Tyler, who was never convicted of any doping offences and insisted he did not knowingly take any banned substances, was on a short-list of six for the job previously occupied by another controversial figure, Eric Hollingsworth.

Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates has made it clear that Kevin Tyler should not be appointed as the new head coach of Athletics Australia ©AFP/Getty ImagesAustralian Olympic Committee President John Coates has made it clear that Kevin Tyler should not be appointed as the new head coach of Athletics Australia ©AFP/Getty Images

But a bald statement issued today by the AOC President John Coates made it clear that the short-list was down to five:

"At its meeting today the AOC Executive resolved to inform Athletics Australia that it will decline to appoint Kevin Tyler as an official of the 2016 Australian Olympic Team if nominated by Athletics Australia," Coates, who is also a vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, said in a statement. 

"The AOC has no further comment."

Phil Jones, the interim chief executive of Athletics Australia, said his organisation fully understood the AOC's decision, which made it impossible to consider offering Tyler the job.

"In many ways he had some good skills to be given the role so we'd have liked him to be a candidate but I don't think we're surprised by the AOC's position given the history and other decisions they have made," Jones said.

"We understand and accept the decision, as it's the AOC's decision to make.

"We asked the question because we wanted to work out whether Kevin was a candidate or not.

"We've got the answer, which is certainly not unexpected, and now we can move on."

Cathy Freeman's former coach Nic Bideau is among those on the short-list to be the new head coach of Athletics Australia ©Getty ImagesCathy Freeman's former coach Nic Bideau is among those on the short-list to be the new head coach of Athletics Australia ©Getty Images

Others on the list include American coach Loren Seagrave, who coached Johnson for a short period when he returned to the sport at the end of his two-year ban imposed after his positive test at Seoul 1988. 

Two Australians are also on the short-list.

They are Nic Bideau, former coach of Olympic 400m champion Cathy Freeman and Craig Mottram, and Craig Hillard, athletics high performance coach at the Australian Institute of Sport.

Hollingsworth left his position soon after publicly criticising Australia's Olympic 100m hurdles champion Sally Pearson on the eve of her defence of the Commonwealth title in Glasgow last year.

Tyler, who worked alongside current AA high performance director Simon Nathan within UK Athletics, is now the head track and field coach at Oklahoma University.

Jones says the AOC's call on Tyler should not hold up the appointment of a new coach, with the Board to continue evaluating the other five candidates.

This awkward situation involving Tyler stirred memories of AA's ill-fated attempt in 1997 to appoint Ekkart Arbeit - a central figure in East Germany's systemic sports doping programme in the 1970s and 1980s - as head coach.

That decision was overturned following a furious backlash from past and present Australian athletes, politicians and sports officials.

Arbeit was later found to have been a spy for the Stasi, East Germany's secret police.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]


Related stories
August 2014: Athletics Australia launch inquiry as more allegations emerge against Hollingsworth
July 2014: Australian athletics head coach stripped of accreditation after row with Olympic champion Pearson
July 2014: Athletics Australia suspends head coach after he criticises Olympic champion
September 2012: Athletics Australia announce restructuring plan after London 2012
May 2012: Britons to lead Australia challenge for London 2012