STATEMENT REGARDING PRESS CONFERENCE ON MARCH 9, 2021
Canada Artistic Swimming commends the courage it took the former national team athletes to speak out at today’s press conference, and we are deeply saddened by the suffering they reported. We have heard what they said, and our work to make sure athletes will always be afforded a safe training environment going forward is well underway.
Last summer when we launched our Diversity and Inclusion campaign with our stakeholders, we invited athletes to share their stories with us. Our organization recognized that there had been issues in the past and acknowledged that although we cannot repair the painful experiences some athletes have faced in the sport in the past, we are working very hard to improve things for the future.
When our national team athletes came to us in late September with feedback about their environment, we responded immediately to undertake a comprehensive review of our national team training. The review identified several areas where improvements needed to be made. We took a number of immediate actions in support of the recommendations included in that report which included providing training on issues of diversity and inclusion, psychological abuse, and mental health for staff and coaches.
Separate from this review, an independent, third-party safe sport investigation was also conducted in accordance with CAS safe sport policies. This took three months to complete and dug deep into specific allegations.
The consultation was extensive, with 30 interviews and hundreds of pages of evidence and witness statements. The lead investigator determined that they did not see sufficient evidence to conclude there is an unsafe training environment in the senior national team program, which guided our next steps. The investigation also confirmed that it was at the discretion of CAS and their advisors to determine when to reconvene the training environment with existing coaching staff. CAS put in place several additional measures before training resumed.
We continue to work hard with our athletes and all other stakeholders to build a world class, science-based training environment. Like many national sport organizations, CAS is clearly defining what are appropriate coaching practices and techniques for elite athletes and when those coaching practices cross a line.
In November, together with our provincial organizations, we commenced a wholesale culture revitalization project – following the teachings of acknowledged leaders in the field and with the support of our funding partners. This project has already changed the nature of our national team program and these changes will continue. We will roll the project out across the country to all clubs and coaches by September to help them learn as we learn what a healthy sport training program looks like in Canada today. This work is already underway and on-going.
CAS has also taken the following steps:
- Coaching certification curriculum has been completely revamped
- Safe sport policies and practices have been adopted and modified several times in respect of evolving best practice standards.
- An ombudsperson has been identified to receive athlete feedback directly
- Demonstrated continued leadership at the international table to effect change in the sport to better align it with Canadian values. Most recently this has meant a role in designing a new objective judging system for the sport.
Athlete health and well-being is the top priority of CAS. We commit to continue to work diligently in this area to show our athletes we can do better.
Chief Executive Officer