MONTREAL, June 4, 2018 /CNW Telbec/ - For too long, stories of physical and psychological abuse have been circulating in the sports community, but no concrete action has been taken to put an end to it. All athletes are vulnerable to becoming victims of abuse – boys and girls alike – regardless of their sport or level. Geneviève Simard, Amélie-Frédérique Gagnon, Gail Kelly and Anna Prchal, four victims of former ski coach Bertrand Charest, are today speaking publicly after years of silence to urge governments to act quickly to protect athletes. They hope their stories, along with those of so many other younger and older athletes who experienced similar abuse, will convince governments to add an eligibility criterion for athletic federations that seek public funding: having a program to protect athletes in place by 2020.
"The depth of the sexual, emotional and mental abuse suffered by these four women is sickening. The first priority is to help them heal and move forward," said JD Miller, President and Cofounder of B2ten. "Like so many other athletes, they trusted their coach and the organization. While this trust is vital to their performance, it must not be abused. How many more stories of abuse are we willing to read before action is taken? It is high time that governments required sports organizations to have an accredited safety program in place in order to be eligible for funding."
"When you're starting out on your athletic career, you're at a stage in your life where you're vulnerable and you're building your self-esteem. You want to prove to your coach that you are capable of performing. The coach has almost total control over a young athlete," said Geneviève Simard, who spoke on behalf of the three other victims who have come forward. "You place all of your trust in him. Unfortunately, some coaches abuse this bond of trust. This must change: it's time we put an end to abuse. No other child should have to endure what we did."
"To ensure a safe environment that is free of any kind of physical or psychological abuse, we recommend that this protection program have three components: first, mandatory training for coaches, volunteers and any others in the athlete's entourage; second, rules and procedures to protect athletes; and third, an independent officer who will oversee their protection and handle any incidents that arise," explained Lorraine Lafrenière, CEO, Coaching Association of Canada.
"No one should ever suffer the abuse endured by these courageous women. The sports associations that were responsible for our clients' protection empowered Mr. Charest, and created the conditions that allowed this horrible abuse to occur and continue. These associations must accept responsibility, and take concrete steps to ensure that the abuse endured by our clients' is never repeated," said Julie Girard, Partner, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg S.E.N.C.R.L., s.r.l.
"It's important for governments to contribute to this process. With their grants to various sports federations, they encourage our athletes to believe in their dreams and push their limits every day. It's now time to make sure these athletes can develop in a safe environment, without fear of abuse," reiterated Mr. Miller.
For further information: French-language media: Marie-Christine Garon, NATIONAL Public Relations, [email protected], 514-409-0031; English-language media: Colin Danby, NATIONAL Public Relations, [email protected], 514-679-1622