Over 100 Canadian boxers call for High Performance Director’s resignation

More than 100 Canadian boxers are calling for the resignation of Boxing Canada’s Director of High Performance, Daniel Trepanier, and an independent investigation into sport culture and safe sport practice.

In a letter sent to Sport Canada on Wednesday morning, the athletes said Boxing Canada has cultivated a toxic culture of fear and silence.

“There has been a consistent trend for over a decade where Boxing Canada athletes and coaches who have spoken out against wrongdoing or stood up for what is right end up outside the organization” , indicates the letter. “Many athletes feel they have experienced physical abuse, psychological abuse and organizational neglect due to their inability to address these issues. Repeated attempts have been made to bring these issues to light. light, and they were ignored or rejected.”

Last year, they said, a comprehensive collection of boxer experiences was submitted to Boxing Canada’s board of directors, and no formal investigation was launched to examine the allegations.

Mandy Bujold, two-time Pan American Games gold medalist, two-time Olympian and 11-time national champion, tweeted: “I stand with the athletes and coaches! #Timeforchange.”

Wednesday’s letter was signed by 121 current and former boxers since 2008. It was sent to Canadian Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge, Own the Podium CEO Anne Merklinger, Boxing Board of Directors Canada and AthletesCAN.

“Crisis” in Canadian Sport

The letter comes amid what St-Onge called a “crisis” in Canadian sport. She said there were accusations of mistreatment, sexual abuse or embezzlement directed by at least eight national sports organizations in her first five months in office.

Canadian bobsleigh and skeleton athletes wrote a similar letter in March calling for the resignation of their interim president and high performance director. They said they would not participate in the proposed mediation, calling it a “quick fix”. And a group of some 70 gymnasts – it has since grown to more than 400 – have written to Sport Canada demanding an independent investigation into their sport’s culture of abuse.

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The boxers identified four main areas of concern: governance and transparency, safety, toxic culture, and harassment and restriction of opportunity.

They said there was a lack of transparency and fairness around things like the distribution of funds.

There is a “blatant disregard” for both the mental and physical health of athletes, including allegations of sexual misconduct which have been “ignored and unreported” to the board. They wrote that athletes often train and compete in dangerous environments and have been forced to train despite clear signs of concussions or with significant weight disparities.

The national organization, through its high-level director, they wrote, has “cultivated an authoritarian style of leadership that retaliates against the careers of those who speak out against the organization and silences others who have genuine concerns but are instilled by fear”. Athletes have experienced and witnessed harassment in the form of homophobic, misogynistic and sexist comments by program management.

Problem with team selection

And Boxing Canada’s team selection decisions, they said, are based on subjective discretion. This has prompted several top athletes, they said, to turn professional earlier than expected and other athletes to compete for other countries internationally.

“Athletes have repeatedly attempted to raise concerns in a respectful and constructive manner internally with Boxing Canada and through external channels in the Canadian sport system,” they wrote. “Perhaps most concerning is that Boxing Canada has shown a complete inability or unwillingness to meaningfully address many of these issues and work towards real positive change.

While there have been some recent ‘superficial changes’ to the governance structure, they said ‘there is no indication that past concerns of athletes and coaches have been resolved or that there have been any concrete changes and significant in 2022″.

In a lengthy statement Wednesday, Boxing Canada said it “takes pride in values ​​such as health and safety, integrity and accountability and takes these concerns very seriously.”

The national organization said it has taken steps in recent months to improve transparency and governance, including creating a high performance advisory group and separating the role of high performance director from coaching responsibilities.

Additionally, under the direction of the Board of Directors, Boxing Canada engaged a third-party expert in March to conduct a high performance culture review, “to ensure athletes and coaches can excel in a challenging environment. ‘optimal training’.

“We are committed to being more proactive in our communications and working with athletes, coaches and other stakeholders to address these concerns and ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all,” the statement read.

Newly hired Sports Integrity Commissioner

Former artistic swimmer Sarah-Eve Pelletier was hired last month as Canada’s first sports integrity commissioner. She will oversee the central core of Canada’s new safe sport program through the Sport Dispute Resolution Center of Canada. St-Onge promised that the office, which was assigned to the SDRCC last summer, will be operational by the end of spring.

It will receive complaints of alleged mistreatment in sport, launch independent investigations and recommend sanctions against those found guilty of offences.

Many athletes said they thought the abuse reporting process through the SDRCC would not be truly independent.