Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton signs on with OSIC; athletes angry about rescheduled AGM

CALGARY — Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton has signed an agreement to join Abuse-Free Sport, the new federal program to prevent and address maltreatment in sport in Canada.

Effective no later than Jan. 17, 2023, complaints of abuse, discrimination and harassment at the national level will go directly to the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC).

The announcement comes a week before the embattled national sport organization resumes its heated annual general meeting that was abruptly adjourned on Sept. 29.

Numerous current and retired Canadian bobsled and skeleton athletes have been calling for the resignation of Sarah Storey, the president of the board and acting CEO of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS), since March, decrying what they've called a toxic environment of maltreatment within the organization.

Storey walked out of the AGM in Calgary before any vote on her presidency could be held. The meeting will resume on Nov. 5 in Whistler, B.C.

"A safe training and competitive environment for everyone involved in our sport is Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton's No. 1 priority," Storey said in Friday's OSIC announcement. "We all have an important role to play in ensuring our community is inclusive, welcoming and safe for all to enjoy.

"Today is another important step forward in our organization's commitment to support a national movement to change the culture of sport in this country. As part of that commitment, we're pleased to sign on to Abuse-Free Sport and to soon have the OSIC to administer our safe sport complaints."

During the transition period, BCS said it will fully adopt the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS).

Athletes have responded angrily about the scheduled conclusion of the AGM, saying the date and location hinder athletes' opportunities to participate.

Neville Wright, a three-time Olympian in bobsled, tweeted the "AGM date is set on the day the athletes travel (to competitions). Official training for racing starts the following day after AGM. You are required to be there in-person (OUT OF PROVINCE)."

BCS said the AGM was adjourned to ensure only members eligible to vote are able to vote, and that all eligible members are able to vote.

Tara McNeil, a 53-year-old sport physiologist from Calgary, has put her name forward for president, after she was approached by a group of athletes to run for the position.

BCS said Friday that members who have experienced or witnessed abuse will continue to have access to independent third-party services through the organization's independent third party, Ashley Lattal of Lattal Law.

Sport minister Pascale St-Onge ordered a financial audit of BCS in March, after some 90 bobsled and skeleton athletes — BCS Athlete for Change — wrote their initial public letter, calling for the resignations of Storey and high-performance director Chris Le Bihan.

St-Onge has given national sport organizations until April of 2023 to become full signatories of OSIC, which began taking complaints on June 22.

Gymnastics Canada, Rowing Canada and Hockey Canada, just three of the embattled sports that are a part of what St-Onge has called a "safe-sport crisis" in the country, have signed on with OSIC in the past week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2022.

The Canadian Press