Gold medallists call for resignations at Gymnastics Canada as MPs question CEO about misconduct claims
Three of Canada's most accomplished gymnasts called on senior leaders of Gymnastics Canada to step down just as the embattled organization's CEO was being grilled by a parliamentary committee over his handling of misconduct allegations.
Kyle Shewfelt, Rosie MacLennan and Ellie Black wrote a letter to Gymnastics Canada's board of directors saying that leaders need to instill confidence, take action and show good judgment when they head up national sporting organizations.
"Based on these key needs, we have lost confidence that Ian Moss (CEO) and Jeffery Thomson (Board Chair) have the ability and trust of the community to see Gymnastics Canada through the current crisis," they wrote.
"We encourage the board to take immediate action by removing Jeff and lan from their current roles and to begin the search for new leadership."
Kyle Shewfelt took gold for Canada at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Rosie MacLennan was the 2012 and 2016 Olympic trampoline champion. Ellie Black is a world champion and three-time Canadian Olympic gymnast.
Gymnastics Canada has been accused in recent months of not doing enough to combat a toxic culture within the organization.
In the fall, Gymnasts for Change Canada, a group dedicated to eliminating abuse in gymnastics, published a letter signed by more than 500 athletes demanding an independent third-party investigation of the organization.
While giving evidence before the House of Commons' status of women committee Monday, Moss was questioned about his role in the organization's leadership and the promotion of controversial coach Alex Bard.
In November, a CBC investigation quoted four sources — including former athletes and coaches — who alleged the Russian-born Bard contributed to a toxic culture during his four decades of coaching across Canada.
For decades, Bard was one of Canada's most respected and well-known gymnastics coaches. But several people told CBC News the former national team coach was also known for alleged inappropriate actions that included behaving abusively toward female coaches and kissing, touching and stoking fear in young gymnasts.
He also allegedly left some gymnasts and fellow coaches "petrified" of him due to his behaviour and his prominent role within Canadian gymnastics, the CBC report said. None of the allegations have been proven in court and Bard has never been charged with any crime.
Despite those complaints, Moss announced in early 2018 that Bard would become the new head coach of the national women's artistic gymnastics team, replacing disgraced coach Dave Brubaker, who had been charged with several counts of sexual assault.
Moss was promoted to CEO of Gymnastics Canada in September 2018.
In 2019, Gymnastics Canada said Bard had resigned for personal reasons, but media reports soon stated that he had been pushed out — a fact that other staff members have since confirmed.
A tense exchange
At committee Monday, Moss was pressed to say why he did not move faster to remove Bard from his role after allegations against him were made.
Moss told MPs that Bard was told his coaching methods were out of date and was ordered to change the way he worked with young athletes. When Bard failed to meet that standard, Moss said, he was fired from the organization.
Conservative MP Anna Roberts asked Moss if he had children and what he would have done had one of his children described to him the kind of conditions faced by those coached by Bard.
Moss said he "would have moved forward with a formal complaint" against the coach.
WATCH | CEO of Gymnastics Canada discusses concerns about coach's behaviour
Roberts said there were "several allegations" against Bard and asked Moss why he did not follow up earlier.
"We have a process based on policies and procedures and a fair and equitable process for everybody that's underneath those policies and we deal with complaints as they come forward," Moss said.
"You're the CEO and you failed these young athletes," Roberts replied. "I don't know as a parent how I could possibly allow this man to continue coaching and jeopardizing our youth. I just don't understand it."
Moss said Gymnastics Canada has to establish the facts, and "allegations are not facts."
Sarah-Ève Pelletier, Canada's sport integrity commissioner, also appeared before the committee Monday. She called for the creation of a national, publicly searchable register of coaches and staff who have been sanctioned by sporting organizations for their conduct.
She said she also wants to ensure athletes in every province have the means to lodge complaints. She said that some provinces do not have provincial bodies that can look into misconduct at the provincial level.