Canadian Olympic sprint champion Donovan Bailey supports the action taken by Athletics Canada in suspending his former national team coach in a sexual harassment investigation, and says the organization and the Canadian Olympic Committee need to implement a reporting mechanism for athletes to prevent the possibility of abuse.
Andy Mclnnis, who was head coach of Canada’s Olympic track team when Bailey won gold in both the 100 metres and 4×100 relay at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, was suspended as head coach at the Ottawa Track and Field club on Monday along with Ken Porter, the club’s chairman.
“I’m very happy the governing bodies are taking action,” Bailey, a CBC Sports track analyst, said Tuesday. “There definitely needs to be attention put on some of these coaches that are [allegedly] abusing their power.”
According to a notice of suspension signed by Athletics Canada commissioner Frank Fowlie, McInnis was reprimanded twice before by the club and by the University of Ottawa, where McInnis also coached, over allegations made against him in 2016.
Porter has been suspended for not taking “adequate remedial action” against McInnis when he had knowledge that he would be coaching club athletes, according to the notice. McInnis was banned from coaching or having contact with any athletes or members of the club.
Bailey, who retired in 2001, believes the COC and Athletics Canada need to do more to create a safer environment for athletes. The federal government recently announced initiatives to better prevent such abuses, including a national hotline for victims and witnesses of abuse.
“They have to understand they’re responsible for hiring these coaches or keeping these coaches in the system,” Bailey said, “so they’re also responsible for the health and well-being of some of these victims.
“For a lot of these kids that strive to get a scholarship and earn their way to the Olympic Games, it’s very important they’re protected. I’m very certain none of them want to be distracted by someone trying to get to them while having their own personal agenda.”
Bailey said he has heard rumours about various coaches over the years, but nothing that was ever substantiated. He said he was never shy about approaching coaches about specific incidents involving a teammate while a member of the national team.
A recent investigation by CBC News and Sports found that at least 222 coaches who were involved in amateur sports in Canada have been convicted of sexual offences in the past 20 years involving more than 600 victims under the age of 18.
“I’ve been talking to people who say [concerns from parents about their kids’ safety] is more prevalent than you think,” Bailey said. “Every parent that drops their kid off at school or at their field of play [does so] with the expectation the kid is going to be better or will have learned so much by the time they pick them up at the end of the day. Unfortunately, that’s not the agenda of some people when they see children.”