Gymnastics Canada wrongfully gave problem coach ‘easy way out’, sport minister says


After CBC revealed a distinguished coach was promoted regardless of allegations of inappropriate behaviour, then allowed to resign voluntarily after he failed to enhance on that behaviour, Canada’s sport minister says Gymnastics Canada wrongfully gave the coach “a straightforward way out.”

On Monday, a CBC News investigation detailed how the CEO of Gymnastics Canada, Ian Moss, allegedly knew of considerations about well-known and well-respected coach Alex Bard earlier than he named him to run the nation’s ladies’s inventive gymnastics program.

Bard has coached gymnastics in Canada for 4 a long time, however a number of individuals say he was additionally recognized for alleged inappropriate actions.

Three former workers members and coaches with Gymnastics Canada confirmed there have been formal and casual complaints made about Bard over a number of years, lengthy earlier than his rise to the highest of the ranks. 

The allegations, which haven’t been confirmed and have by no means led to costs, included behaving abusively towards feminine coaches and athletes, and kissing, touching and stoking worry in younger gymnasts.

Gymnastics Canada is likely one of the nation’s largest nationwide sport organizations, with greater than 310,000 registered athletes. It is the first pipeline for creating Canadian gymnasts with aspirations to compete on the world stage, together with the Olympics.

In an announcement to CBC, federal sport minister Pascale St-Onge mentioned “toxic teaching practices and cultures of silence are deeply entrenched” inside nationwide sport organizations, and people organizations want to alter.

“Coaches who’re accused of such behaviours ought to be investigated and never be given a straightforward way out,” the minister’s assertion reads.

“We all — mother and father, coaches, officers, directors, and volunteers — should have zero tolerance for abuse and maltreatment of athletes, and I hope that message is obvious to everybody.”

Long-time Canadian gymnastics coach Alex Bard, seen right here in the course of the 2000 Canadian Olympic trials, was recognized to kiss his younger feminine gymnasts. Federal sport minister Pascale St-Onge labelled this as one of many ‘outdated teaching strategies’ utilized by coaches like Bard. (TSN)

Leaders should reply shortly to allegations of abuse, minister says

St-Onge mentioned the onus is on anybody able of energy inside a nationwide sport group, equivalent to Gymnastics Canada.

“People in management positions have to act as quickly as they turn out to be conscious of abuse or maltreatment of any form inside their group, act responsibly, and be accountable for change,” the assertion learn.

“This is a requirement for good governance and administration.”

One of Bard’s supervisors at Gymnastics Canada, Karl Balisch, acknowledged to CBC that considerations had been expressed to him relating to Bard’s behaviour.

Balisch left the group in 2018 and at present works as the manager director of Archery Canada.

Still, Bard was promoted the identical yr Balisch left, and simply months after Moss — who was the group’s excessive efficiency director on the time — additionally acknowledged considerations about Bard’s behaviour, in accordance with a supply.

Bard was then pushed out in 2019 resulting from failing to enhance on his behaviour, in accordance with a letter from Moss to the Gymnastics Canada board of administrators.

St-Onge’s workplace known as most of the allegations in opposition to Bard “outdated teaching strategies.”

Alex Bard, seen right here teaching on the Bluewater Gymnastics Club in Sarnia, Ont., in August 2019, has continued to coach at numerous golf equipment throughout Canada. (Bluewater Gymnastics Club Inc./Facebook)

Bard allowed to resign

As first reported by TSN, Bard was given the selection to resign or face an inner investigation. He informed TSN he had “nothing to show” and walked away, however he continues to coach younger gymnasts throughout Canada.

Moss informed CBC he did the very best he might with the knowledge out there when he obtained the assorted considerations.

“There have been plenty of casual considerations that have been put ahead that we handled when it comes to behaviour, after which there was one formal grievance that got here round inappropriate behaviour in a single incident that [had] nothing to do with abuse or maltreatment,” Moss mentioned.

“I handled it accordingly, and I stand by that.”

The Gymnastics Canada board of administrators has additionally been overhauled since Bard left, in accordance with present board chair Jeff Thomson.

Amid the requires an impartial third-party investigation, Gymnastics Canada employed McLaren Global Sport Solutions this summer season to assist design a tradition evaluation for the group and analyze its nationwide secure sport insurance policies and procedures. McLaren is about to launch a public report in January 2023.

The group additionally lately signed on to entry the providers of the brand new Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC), which was created to offer a one-stop, totally impartial grievance investigator. It will probably be an official member no later than Dec. 2.

St-Onge’s workplace has suspended funding to Gymnastics Canada, pending affirmation the group has joined OSIC.


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