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New head of UK Athletics axed before starting the job

The case of Zara Hyde Peters shows that having more women at the top might not be enough to change the culture of athletics

In the wake of allegations about a toxic culture at the Nike Oregon Project and elsewhere, Mary Cain and others have called for more women in the top positions in sport. But the case of former distance runner Zara Hyde Peters illustrates that having more women in positions of authority won’t be enough to change the culture.

On Monday, The Times of London reported that Hyde Peters, 55, who was to start her new job as CEO of UK Athletics on December 1, would not assume the role after all, amid discoveries not only that her husband had had an “inappropriate relationship” with a 15-year-old female student, but for five years he’d been allowed to coach athletes at the club where his wife was vice chair, despite receiving a lifetime ban for teaching in 2012.

Hyde Peters has also resigned from her roles on the board of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022 and as chair of its Athletes Advisory Committee.

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Hyde Peters insisted her husband, Mike Peters, had never coached athletes younger than 18 at the Coventry Godiva Harriers, where she was coaching co-ordinator and later vice chair, but a report in the Guardian says he coached girls as young as 16.

According to a BBC report, Peters was cleared of sexual misconduct but found guilty of professional misconduct.

UKA chair Chris Clark reportedly defended Hyde Peters when the Times initially reported on the issues involving her husband last Friday.

The news comes after much criticism of UK Athletics’ response to news of former Nike Oregon Project head coach Alberto Salazar receiving a four-year ban from athletics for doping violations. Former UKA Performance Director Neil Black stepped down in October after a disappointing performance by British athletes in Doha (who earned only five medals) and amid criticism of his vocal support of Salazar.

In 2015, UK Athletics cleared Mo Farah (one of Salazar’s top athletes) to continue working with Salazar even though he was under investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). (Farah left the NOP in 2017, has never failed a drug test, and has never been implicated in any wrongdoing.)

RELATED: BBC journalist unpacks Alberto Salazar story

The former head of British Triathlon, Hyde Peters is an officer of the Order of the British Empire.

The UK Athletics CEO position reportedly comes with a salary of £200,000.