The CEO of Athletics Canada has stepped down after engaging in a series of sexually graphic Twitter exchanges over a number of months from his personal account.
In a statement released Wednesday evening, Athletics Canada said David Bedford had agreed to retire, effective immediately. Mathieu Gentès, the chief operating office, will assume the role on an interim basis.
The move comes following an emergency meeting of the organization's board of governors on Monday after members became aware of the tweets on the weekend.
Athletics Canada is a publicly funded organization that represents thousands of athletes, from children running in local clubs to elite athletes competing for Canada at the Olympics and other international events.
Bedford posted the tweets as replies to nearly a dozen different Twitter accounts. The tweets have since been deleted.
Bedford says they were exchanges of humour
In an interview with CBC Sports Monday, Bedford defended the tweets as exchanges of humour.
"It's my personal account. It's not like I was sending out photos or tweets myself," Bedford said. "In this day and age with all we have been going through, I found some of these things funny so I commented. It's apparent others didn't feel the same way so I removed them."
Attempts by CBC Sports to contact Bedford on Wednesday went unanswered, but in a Facebook post, Bedford wrote: "It is with a tremendous amount of excitement, and loads and loads of thanks to more people than I can mention that I have officially retired today."
In his personal Twitter bio, Bedford identifies himself as the CEO of Athletics Canada and provides a link to the organization's website.
After receiving a number of internal complaints over the weekend, Athletics Canada's board chair Helen Manning said she spoke to Bedford, who then deleted the offensive tweets and locked his account.
"Those types of comments are not something that is in keeping with the policy of how we see our people in the public domain," Manning said.
Nearly a dozen interactions
CBC has reviewed nearly a dozen interactions by Bedford going back as far as August.
In one, a woman references oral sex and Bedford replies: "You are killing me girl. Don't know whether to laugh or cry reading your tweets!"
In another, a woman remarks about not wearing a bra and Bedford responds: "Always important to have a couple of firm, upstanding individuals."
"I have not abused anybody in any way shape or form at any point," Bedford told CBC Sports earlier this week. "I merely commented on other people's tweets that I found to be humorous and I guess other people did not and I respect that."
Safe Sport a priority, organization says
Bedford was hired by Athletics Canada in 2019, and has worked in a variety of leadership roles across Canadian sport, including the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Toronto Argonauts.
The organization has made Safe Sport and listening to athletes a priority and has committed to investigating allegations of sexual abuse within its ranks.
Audrey Giles, a member of Athletics Canada's Safe Sport Committee, said Monday that Bedford's behaviour made it difficult for him to continue as the face of an organization that says it's committed to change.
"If you're a female athlete or a female coach or, you know, even a male athlete and you're looking at the tone and the language of these tweets, could you have any confidence that this person could be a changemaker?" Giles said.