2013/06/02, Sunrise over the Comrades Marathon 2013, up run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. The mens winner was Claude Moshiywa, and the womans winner was Elena Nurgalieva. Picture: Adrian de Kock

Kampala – Authorities in Uganda have ordered a police investigation into complaints by elite female runners that they suffered sexual harassment and abuse from a top athletics coach, a report said Friday.

The Daily Monitor said female runners were subjected to late-night visits and demands for sexual favours while attending a training camp to prepare for last week's Africa Cross-country Championships.

Local government official Sam Cheptoris told the paper that the coach, who has not been named, had been suspended from duty and the police asked to conduct a criminal investigation, saying authorities had confirmed the allegations carried by the paper after meeting with dozens of athletes.

“There is no smoke without fire,” the paper quoted an official as saying. “His reputation is not good. He has done bad things before.”

“We hope something will be done. We need justice,” one of female runners who lodged a complaint told the Daily Monitor, adding that it was “disappointing” that the Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) had failed to take action when the allegations first emerged.

The paper said the runner did not want to be named for fear of being reprimanded by the UAF.

On Thursday the paper quoted female runners as complaining that the coach had threatened to kick female runners off the national athletics squad or beat them up if they refused his sexual advances.

According to Ugandan team captain Moses Kipsiro, who intervened to put an end to the abuse, the coach had allegedly told some of the women runners that “they must have sex” in order to perform better.

“His theory was that if a woman's private parts are wide, their legs move easily. I was so shocked,” Kipsiro was quoted as saying. “I even feel ashamed to talk about some of the things that happened in that camp.” – Sapa-AFP