The Sydney Flames have revealed former coach Shane Heal has been investigated over bullying allegations levelled at the Australian basketball legend by several players.

After weeks of speculation, Heal’s absence from Flames matches through January has now been explained, with the club suspending Heal while the investigation was taking place.

“After consideration of the allegations and the risk to the health and safety of players and the club’s obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act (2011), as well as the obligations we have under the Basketball Australia Member Protection Policy, it was determined by the Sydney Flames to carry out an independent, factual investigation of the allegations made and that Shane Heal be suspended whilst the investigation took place,” the club said in a statement.

“Several players subsequently approached the Australian Basketball Players Association (ABPA) who have provided counselling and support to the players concerned, for which the club remains grateful.

“The club has remained resolute in allowing due process to be followed including limiting public comment to avoid any repercussions for the individuals involved. It will continue to adopt that approach.”

Heal did not coach the Flames in their matches towards the end of January and his daughter Shyla made a mid-season move to Townsville Fire two weeks ago.

The 52-year-old has since launched legal action against the club in the Federal Court.

“The Sydney Flames maintain the current legal proceedings instigated by Mr Heal are simply an effort to delay or block the Sydney Flames from bringing its current process to a conclusion,” the club statement read.

“What sits at the heart of this matter is player safety and welfare.

“That is our sole concern at this time, and we will always maintain focus on that.

“The Sydney Flames see no merit in Mr Heal’s current legal manoeuvrings and will defend Mr Heal’s Court proceedings vigorously and to its full extent.”

The club’s investigation remains ongoing. 

Heal released a statement of his own on Tuesday afternoon denying the club’s allegations regarding his legal action.

“I deny that I have at any stage acted in a manner to risk the health and safety of any person or player,” Heal said. 

“To the contrary, I have sought to safeguard the wellbeing and interests of players, and support them. I have not been informed by Sydney Flames (or any other organisation) of the identity of any persons who may have raised concerns.

“I do not accept the accusation by the Sydney Flames that I am engaging in litigation for some improper purpose.

“The present litigation is my attempt to defend my rights and entitlements, and also pursue the concerns which I have about the investigation process; allegations raised; and reliance by Sydney Flames on these allegations.

“I take pride in my role and respect each and every player. I also respect my coaching staff who have worked tirelessly alongside me and continue to do a fantastic job.”