Boxing Canada high performance director Daniel Trepanier resigns amid toxic culture allegations

Four days after dozens of Canadian boxers wrote an open letter to Sport Canada calling for the resignation of Daniel Trépanier, Boxing Canada’s high performance director has resigned.

Boxing Canada president Ryan Savage made the announcement on Sunday, saying the sports organization will engage with provincial governing bodies to create a search committee in the coming weeks to hire a new high performance director. .

Wednesday’s letter, signed by 121 current and retired boxers – a number that has more than doubled since then – spoke of a toxic culture within the federation.

Three-time world champion Mary Spencer was among the most outspoken, saying ” [Trepanier] should have been fired a long time ago.”

The outcry caught the attention of the International Boxing Association, which withdrew Trépanier’s accreditation to the women’s world championships which began Sunday in Istanbul.

“The open letter … is very concerning,” IBA General Secretary Istvan Kovacs said in an email to Boxing Canada on Friday. “There can be no place in our sport for the abuse of athletes and we ask for your cooperation in making it happen.

“The protection of boxers and the broader boxing community is, and will remain, a priority for the current IBA management team.”

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Kovacs said the IBA’s integrity officer and ethics committee would review the claims raised in the letter.

The athletes painted the picture of a hostile environment of homophobic, misogynistic and sexist comments. They wrote about safety issues – including being forced to train despite having concussion symptoms – and said there was a lack of fairness around things like the dispersal of funds and a creeping favoritism that clouds decisions about team selection.

“It’s a real problem when the top manager of a national boxing federation is openly against women’s boxing,” Spencer told The Canadian Press. “Someone’s opinion shouldn’t stop you from preparing, but when you’re working with him, the way he treats women, that’s a huge hurdle.”

Spencer was one of Canada’s favorites for medals ahead of the 2012 London Olympics and claimed Trépanier used some of the $140,000 she received from Own the Podium for training to send her to a camp in Ireland before the Games where there were no female athletes to train. with.

“It showed in my performance. When I learned a few months later that one of these two boxers had turned pro and that [Trepanier] was his personal trainer, I was crazy,” Spencer said. “My coach at the time sent a letter to the brass at Boxing Canada to say [them] what happened and how crazy we were. To this day, I haven’t heard of them.”

Previous call for the withdrawal of Trépanier

Wednesday was not the first time that Canadian boxers called for the withdrawal of Trépanier.

In a 2014 letter obtained by The Canadian Press, national team coaches and athletes wrote, “We, the national team coaches and athletes, no longer want to work with Daniel Trépanier. Coaches and boxers don’t want him in corners at competitions and coaches don’t want him running training camps.

“He’s not fit to run Canada’s top-flight boxing program.”

They described conflicts of interest between his various roles, a lack of coaching development and poor communication, among other issues.

A 2016 study commissioned by Own the Podium and Boxing Canada gave scathing reviews of the high performance program. Part of the conclusion states that Boxing Canada has “remained static throughout a period of significant change in its sport in a global context”.

Boxing Canada’s board of directors held emergency meetings over the weekend to further improve its transparency and governance, Savage said in the statement.

The board, he said, reaffirmed its commitment to a high performance advisory council, the revitalization of a committee to ensure communication with provincial bodies, mandatory safe sport training for coaches and staff, and high performance role separation. coaching responsibilities.

“The Board has decided to expedite the work of the third party expert who was engaged in March 2022 to conduct a culture review of the High Performance Program to ensure athletes and coaches can excel in an optimal training environment,” Savage said. .

Rob Koehler, managing director of Global Athlete, said an independent investigation is always crucial and must be endorsed by the athletes.

“This is the only way to bring justice, accountability and start the process of earning athletes’ trust through transparency and accountability,” he said on Sunday.

The boxing letter comes amid what Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge has called a “crisis” in safe sport in Canada.

Dozens of bobsleigh and skeleton athletes wrote a similar open letter, calling for the resignation of interim president Sarah Storey and high performance director Chris Le Bihan. They remain at their post.

Hundreds of former and current gymnasts have asked Sport Canada to launch an independent investigation into their sport.