Track club coach, chair banned for life by Athletics Canada

Athletics Canada’s commissioner has banned for life Ottawa Lions track and field club coach Andy McInnis and recently fired chair Ken Porter after numerous complaints of sexual misconduct, and has issued a stern reprimand against the club’s board of directors for failing to take appropriate action.

As well, McInnis is expelled from the Athletics Canada Hall of Fame, and Porter is ordered to partially reimburse Athletics Canada $5,000 for allegedly delaying an investigation by refusing to co-operate.

None of the allegations against either man has been proven in court, and CBC News is not aware of any criminal charges against them.

The lifetime bans from Athletics Canada, its branches and individual member clubs come after an independent investigation led by former Ontario Ombudsman André Marin, which began Jan. 30 and was dated May 5, resulting in a report titled In Plain View: The Tolerance of Sexual Misconduct at the Ottawa Lions Club.

Longtime friends

The men — who have been friends for more than 40 years, according to Marin and Athletics Canada’s commissioner, Frank Fowlie — were suspended by Athletics Canada in late March.

At the time, the organization said McInnis had been on paid leave since September 2018 due to allegations of sexual harassment, and was not allowed to coach or have contact with any athletes or members of the club. (The organization also revealed that McInnis had been accused of misconduct in 2016 and was reprimanded.)

Despite the imposed restrictions on his duties, Athletics Canada alleged McInnis took part in training with the club in California during the last week of December 2018 and first week of January 2019.

Porter, meanwhile, was initially suspended for not taking “adequate remedial action” against his friend when he had knowledge that McInnis would be coaching club athletes.

More alleged victims come forward

Following the suspensions, a total of nine men have come forward to allege that Porter sexually interfered with them in the 1970s, according to a report by Fowlie, citing information gathered by Marin.

Some of the men allege they were underage at the time. They told Marin they were given massages by Porter that led to sexual assaults.

Fowlie also found that McInnis “sexually harassed, if not sexually assaulted, a female athlete by touching her near her vagina during a massage,” which Fowlie alleged was purposefully done away from the view of others.

McInnis also “demonstrated a history of sexually harassing female athletes at the Lions Club as a matter of course,” and that he and the board “created an environment where sexual harassment in an athlete training setting became normalized,” Fowlie wrote.

Board reprimanded, ordered to apologize

Ottawa Lions board members Ryan Rowat, Sean Burges, Paul Bedard, Leslie Estwick, Devyani Biswal and Corey Wingate were reprimanded by Fowlie “in the strongest possible terms for their failure to act ethically and with integrity as sport leaders.”

The club was also ordered to partially reimburse Athletics Canada $25,000 for investigative costs, issue a public apology and issue private apologies to the alleged victims, among other things.

“The philosophy of the board seems to have been coaches first, club second, athletes third,” Fowlie wrote in his decision.

Marin made 21 recommendations in his report, all of which have been accepted by Fowlie and ordered to be acted upon. The recommendations include:

  • That parents of all current and former male athletes of the Ottawa Lions be notified about the allegations against Porter.
  • That all Canadian athletics clubs notify Athletics Canada about allegations of harassment and sexual harassment, and that Athletics Canada keep a registry of of complaints.
  • That the Ottawa Lions post on its website all future reprimands, suspensions and discipline of its staff in matters of harassment and sexual harassment, and that Athletics Canada do the same.
  • That Athletics Canada strike a working group to to decide if coach massages should continue, and if so, under what circumstances and conditions.
  • That Athletics Canada prohibit alcohol consumption by coaches while on duty with athletes.
  • That the Ottawa Lions appoint an ombudsman who isn’t part of the organization or the board.

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