Canadian bobsleigh, skeleton athletes reject organization’s ‘Band-aid’ mediation plan

Canadian bobsleigh and skeleton athletes remain steadfast in their refusal to accept their national sport organization’s “unacceptable” mediation plan.

A group that has grown to 87 current and retired athletes sent a third letter Monday to Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, saying it stood by its previous statements of March 7 and 14, calling the proposed mediation “a Band-Aid solution.”

“It does nothing to address the very root of the problem, which we believe to be governance and leadership failures,” said the letter, copies of which were sent to the Canadian Olympic Committee, Own the Podium, Sport Canada and the Canadian Minister of Sport Pascale Ste-Onge.

“In addition, BCS failed to engage or consult with the athletes on the proposed plan, or even when choosing a mediator, once again highlighting its disregard for the athletes and their concerns. With respect, this approach is insensitive and lacks empathy in light of the issues brought forward.”

WATCH | Helen Upperton discusses discontent at Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton:

Helen Upperton discusses discontent at Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton

The Canadian Olympic silver medallist joins Andi Petrillo to talk about the issues bobsleigh and skeleton athletes have with their national organization. 6:51

A group of about 60 athletes first complained to BCS on March 7 about issues with culture, safety, transparency and governance, claiming staff makes arbitrary decisions on matters like team selection based on biases, and has little concern for athlete safety, among other issues. The signees asked for the resignation of acting CEO Sarah Storey and high performance director Chris Le Bihan.

In an email to Canada’s current 49 bobsleigh and skeleton athletes, BCS outlined a two-step mediation process. The first step was to convene meetings with athletes to identify areas of concern and opportunities for improvement. Step 2 was to convene a mediated meeting of athletes, the board, and representatives from Sport Canada, Own the Podium and the COC.

“We will continue to outright reject any unilaterally imposed mediation process, where the athletes have no input into the choice of mediator, or a process which does not include the participation of all impacted athletes whether by proxy or their chosen representative,” Monday’s letter said. “The athletes believe that mediation will not result in a meaningful resolution until a comprehensive, independent and transparent investigation is conducted into the matters brought forward.”

Athlets get support from numerous groups, athletes

The group, which doesn’t include every current team member, has garnered support from numerous groups and athletes such as Kaillie Humphries and the U.S. Athletes’ Advisory Council of U.S. bobsleigh/Skeleton. Humphries is a two-time Olympic champion for Canada, but switched allegiances to the United States, after filing harassment complaints against BCS in 2018. She won gold in the monobob for the U.S. at last month’s Beijing Olympics.

Canada’s bobsleigh team captured two bronze medals at the Beijing Olympics — Christine de Bruin in the monobob and Justin Kripps’ four-man sled.

In interviews with The Canadian Press, athletes talked about issues such as the skeleton team competing at the Beijing Olympic test event last fall without a coach present, leading to injuries on the unfamiliar track. The athletes claimed they’re almost completely self-funded. Athletes on Canada’s development bobsleigh team said they didn’t have access to medical treatment during several weeks of training in Whistler, B.C., including an athlete who was ejected from a sled.

Monday’s letter said “in accordance with safe sport requirements and best practices in Canada, these matters must be investigated. We are confident that the investigation findings will support the complaints brought forward, and from there serve as a platform to re-build with an open mind.

“We continue to believe that BCS is not able to move forward to address the athlete concerns in a positive or productive manner with the current leadership.”

The group requested once again that both Storey and Le Bihan be placed in leave until an investigation is complete.

The signees are athletes who have competed for Canada between 2014 and now.

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