KAMPALA, March 20 – A group of top Ugandan women runners have accused a national athletics coach of systematic sexual harassment and abuse ahead of last week’s Africa Cross-country Championships, a report said Thursday.
The Daily Monitor newspaper said the female runners spent a month at a training camp preparing for the competition, but were subjected to late-night visits and demands for sexual favours.
“He would wake up in the middle of the night and come to our room,” an unnamed female runner was quoted as saying by the paper.
“He threatened to chase us from camp if we ever said anything or turned him down. We didn’t have any female coach to run to. It was horrible. On some days, he would call one or two of us to his nearby house. If you refused to do what he wanted, he would beat you up.”
The paper did not name the coach, who was one of three trainers overseeing the preparations for the March 16 competition. Uganda failed to win an individual medal despite racing on home turf.
The report said Ugandan team captain Moses Kipsiro intervened, and that the runners have filed a complaint with the Ugandan Athletics Federation (UAF) and the police — but said a number of runners trying to make individual complaints to police were turned away by officers.
According to Kipsiro, the coach had allegedly told some of the women runners that “to run well, they must have sex or give birth”.
“His theory was that if a woman’s private parts are wide, their legs move easily. I was so shocked,” Kipsiro told the paper. “I even feel ashamed to talk about some of the things that happened in that camp.”
The Daily Monitor said the UAF had so far denied the allegations.
“Those accusations against the coach are false,” UAF general secretary Beatrice Ayikoru was quoted as saying.