Top Canadian bobsleigh, skeleton athletes call for resignations amid toxic culture allegations

A few of Canada’s high bobsleigh and skeleton athletes are calling for the resignations of the president of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, Sarah Storey, and excessive efficiency director Chris Le Bihan.

A gaggle of greater than 60 athletes have penned an open letter to the group, alleging Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS) continues to be riddled with toxicity — regardless of the group touting a tradition shift following the departure of Kaillie Humphries in 2019 amid harassment allegations.

The complete listing of signatories to the letter has not been disclosed by its organizers. Nevertheless, CBC Information has spoken to a dozen present and former athletes, and has verified the letter’s authenticity.

The athletes who spoke with CBC Information say whereas the tradition shift was typically profitable in repairing relations between athletes and coaches, BCS’ administration did not maintain up its finish to result in constructive change to the group.

Canada gained a bronze medal within the four-man males’s bobsleigh on the Beijing Winter Video games final month, in addition to a bronze medal within the inaugural ladies’s monobob occasion.

WATCH | Justin Kripps pilots Canada to Olympic bronze medal in 4-man bobsleigh:

Justin Kripps pilots Canada to Olympic bronze medal in 4-man bobsleigh

The 2018 Olympic champion pilot in two-man bobsleigh, Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C., gained the bronze medal within the two-man bobsleigh occasion at Beijing 2022. 4:36

A tradition of worry

The athletes who spoke with CBC Information all described a grim tradition, one the place they’re afraid to talk out for worry of retaliation from the group — particularly, dropping their spot on the nationwide group and thus their Olympic desires. These considerations are additionally mirrored within the letter, signed by athletes who competed for Canada way back to 2014.

“BCS’s management model feels authoritarian, and worry of retaliation silences athletes and prevents them from bringing ahead any questions or considerations,” the letter reads.

“The athletes really feel they don’t have any voice on issues that immediately have an effect on them and face a corporation that’s unwilling to meaningfully deal with considerations and make enhancements.”

Athletes who spoke with CBC additionally allege considerations raised have typically been met with defensiveness from the group, and their complaints disregarded. When BCS has taken steps to research complaints, the athletes say the method has been insufficient, as additionally raised within the letter.

By way of a spokesperson, Storey and Le Bihan declined CBC’s request for an interview in regards to the letter.

WATCH | Kaillie Humphries wins monobob gold in 1st Olympics as an American:

Kaillie Humphries wins monobob gold in 1st Olympics as an American

Calgarian Kaillie Humphries, who gained two Olympic gold medals for Canada in ladies’s bobsleigh, gained her first Olympic gold medal as an American in monobob’s debut at Beijing 2022. 3:41

“Basically investigations have been undertaken to resolve these complaints, nevertheless athletes are involved with the timeliness, precedence and course of by which these points have been addressed,” the letter reads.

“At the moment, athletes wouldn’t have confidence within the [BCS] to prioritize their security, stop new points from arising, or guarantee they are going to be dealt with appropriately.”

Such considerations round BCS’s course of for dealing with complaints should not new.

In a 2021 choice from the Sport Dispute Decision Centre in Humphries’ case, an arbitrator discovered that an investigator employed by BCS to look into Humphries’ complaints “began from a place the place his inclination was to interview no witnesses,” the arbitrator dominated.

“Then he seems to have reluctantly agreed to interview 5 of six witnesses, along with the principal actors,” the arbitrator added in setting apart the investigation’s findings and ordering a brand new investigation.

Athlete security considerations

The athletes additionally allege their security is not a major concern for BCS.

Within the letter, they level to how skeleton athletes have been despatched to an Olympic check occasion in Beijing in October 21, and not using a coach, the place the group was getting accustomed to the brand new monitor. 

Athletes who spoke with CBC Information say whereas they have been nonetheless in Beijing for the check occasion, BCS knowledgeable them the nationwide group choice races could be every week later. A number of athletes reportedly crashed through the group choice race as soon as again in Canada, they allege, as they have been pressured to slip jet lagged from the Beijing journey.

Canada’s Blake Enzie races throughout a check occasion for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Video games on the Yanqing Nationwide Sliding Middle in October 2021. Canada’s skeleton athletes have been despatched to the occasion and not using a coach. Solely three of the athletes who attended the occasion attended the Olympics three months later. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

A few of the jet-lagged athletes additionally under-performed through the group choice race, they allege, citing psychological fatigue, and say the method to pick the nationwide skeleton group was unfair given the tight turnaround time to get again to Canada and slide.

Solely three of the six athletes who attended the occasion attended the Olympics three months later.

Group chosen at BCS’ discretion, athletes say

However the outcomes of the choice races appeared to not have mattered, as spots on the nationwide group have been chosen at BCS’s discretion. For instance, on the ladies’s facet, the 2 quickest sliders from the choice races have been positioned on the decrease Intercontinental Cup circuit, whereas the third and fourth-fastest sliders have been named to the top-tier World Cup circuit.

Such obvious discretion in deciding on groups is one other challenge the athletes have taken exception to of their letter.

Justin Kripps, Ryan Sommer, Cam Stones and Benjamin Coakwell, of Canada, slide through the four-man warmth three on the 2022 Winter Olympics, Feb. 20, 2022, within the Yanqing district of Beijing. In a letter, 60 present and former athletes allege spots on the nationwide group have been chosen at BCS’s discretion. (Dmitri Lovetsky/The Related Press)

“BCS employs unilateral choice making, whereas additionally disregarding greatest practices and athlete suggestions. The insurance policies and standards are unnecessarily sophisticated, rely closely upon coach or administration discretion,” the letter reads.

“At first look these insurance policies seem strong. In actuality, they serve solely to strengthen BCS’s deeply held biases, leading to an setting that’s anti-competition, opposite to the elemental essence of sport, and guarantee in lots of instances that solely the athletes who match into the ‘BCS-ideal’ will ever have the chance to compete.”

BCS plans assembly to deal with considerations

In a press release, the group mentioned it appreciated the athletes bringing their considerations ahead.

“We take the considerations of our athletes severely. As we do on the completion of each Olympic quadrennial, we plan to satisfy with our athlete group immediately as quickly as potential to overview and deal with their considerations,” the assertion learn. 

“The method of scheduling conferences has already begun with our nationwide skeleton program.”

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