Athletics Canada established a new whistleblower policy in response to the abusive treatment of athletes going unreported. The “sport governing body” for track and field, cross country, race walking, and other combined events recently banned three track and field coaches for life for misconduct and mistreatment of athletes.
In December of 2019, news broke that the University of Guelph fired track and field coach Dave Scott-Thomas for “unprofessional conduct”—Athletics Canada banned Scott-Thomas in December as well. Later in February 2020, CBC reported that Scott-Thomas had been involved in grooming and engaging in inappropriate relationships with athletes. Athletics Canada then imposed a lifetime ban on Ottawa Lions coach Andy McInnis and chair Ken Porter in May of 2019 when several allegations of McInnis’ sexual misconduct surfaced. Both men still deny any allegations: McInnis submitted an appeal to get the lifetime ban reviewed by another commissioner. On June 8, 2020, commissioner Hugh L. Fraser ruledthat the lifetime ban from Athletics Canada be upheld and McInnis removed from the Athletics Canada Hall of Fame. The “Safe Sport” page on the Athletics Canada website provides information on filing a complaint, the role of the commissioners, and under “Suspended Individuals” lists both McInnis and Porter as having a “lifetime ban.”
The new whistleblower policy aims “to allow people to have a discreet and safe procedure by which they can disclose incidents of wrongdoing without fear of unfair treatment or reprisal” and outlines the investigator’s and commissioner’s role in handling whistleblower claims. The policy also states that whistleblower confidentially “is assured for all individuals, but the principals of procedural fairness must be considered and notice of such matter to AC.”
Dave Bedford, Athletics Canada CEO, notes the whistleblower policy extends not just to victims but also to bystanders and witnesses of misconduct. “If someone wants to stand up and be counted and say, ‘I saw this,’ or, ‘I heard this,’ they can be protected in doing that, rather than just a victim having to come forward,” Bedford said.
New guidelines to safeguard athletes accompany the new whistleblower policy: coaches are now discouraged from spending time one-on-one with athletes or “being ‘overly involved’ in athletes’ personal lives.”