Athletics Canada has banned former University of Guelph and Olympic team track coach Dave Scott-Thomas for life from the sport.
Once among Canada’s most respected and powerful athletics coaches, Mr. Scott-Thomas was dismissed by the University of Guelph last December after a student athlete at the school lodged a code-of-conduct complaint against him.
In February, a Globe and Mail investigation reported that Mr. Scott-Thomas had an alleged sexual relationship with a student athlete dating back to 2002, and had fostered a toxic sporting culture in his university program spanning many years.
The report also revealed that the University of Guelph was made aware of the alleged relationship and had investigated in 2006, but did little to punish its star coach. Athletics Canada, the country’s track and field governing body, was also made aware of his actions in 2006, but continued hiring him as a national team coach.
After The Globe report was published, Athletics Canada asked its independent commissioner to investigate Mr. Scott-Thomas, and its own past dealings with the coach.
Mr. Scott-Thomas led University of Guelph teams to 37 track and cross-country titles. He received more coach of the year awards than anyone in Canadian university history. Mr. Scott-Thomas has coached Olympians, and was a member of the 2016 Rio Games staff, as well as a head coach for Canada at international competitions.
Mr. Scott-Thomas was provisionally suspended on Jan. 26 while the commissioner investigated the claims.
Through his lawyer, Mr. Scott-Thomas said the allegations in The Globe’s investigative report were “unsubstantiated and inaccurate.” Repeated attempts by The Globe to contact Mr. Scott-Thomas have gone unanswered.
The University of Guelph has said it is conducting its own internal investigation of Mr. Scott-Thomas, but has yet to reveal its findings. Last month, more than 200 faculty and staff sent a letter to the school’s president demanding transparency and an independent review of the university’s handling of Mr. Scott-Thomas. Franco Vaccarino, the University of Guelph’s president, would not commit to a third-party inquiry.
When asked for comment on the lifetime ban, a representative of the University of Guelph said in an e-mail that the school does not comment on decisions made by other organizations. The representative also said the university’s investigation is ongoing.
Athletics Canada’s chief executive officer, David Bedford, told The Globe in an e-mail that “Mr. Scott-Thomas has received the maximum penalty” it can impose in being barred from coaching at any level within Canada for life. He said Mr. Scott-Thomas could still coach individual athletes or clubs not sanctioned by Athletics Canada, and could coach in another country.
“We only have jurisdiction within Canada, and within Athletics Canada’s membership. We have informed both World Athletics and the Athletics Integrity Unit, per the commissioner’s order,” Mr. Bedford said. “We have also informed the government of Canada, the Coaching Association of Canada, and all AC branches per the commissioner’s order.”
The lifetime ban means Mr. Scott-Thomas will not be able to coach top-level Canadian athletes of any age, or at Athletics Canada-sanctioned clubs. Mr. Scott-Thomas was the founder of Speedriver Track and Field Club, which became Canada’s top club. In partnership with the University of Guelph, Speedriver transformed the city of Guelph into the epicentre of running in Canada. The club dissolved earlier this year. The University of Guelph’s track and field program is now coached by Jason Kerr, one of Mr. Scott-Thomas’s former assistants.
The terms of the ban allow Mr. Scott-Thomas to attend running events as a spectator if his children are competitors. He will also be able to attend any event after 2025 at the end of a five-year spectator ban. Athletics Canada declined to comment on why these terms were allowed. The commissioner who conducted the investigation and meted out Mr. Scott-Thomas’s punishment, Frank Fowlie, deferred to Athletics Canada for comment.
Athletics Canada did not provide a detailed report from the commissioner, releasing only a one-page notice of Mr. Scott-Thomas’s lifetime ban.
The organization also declined to say if any other Athletics Canada staff would be reprimanded in connection with the matter.
Mr. Bedford, Athletics Canada’s CEO, told The Globe that Mr. Scott-Thomas will not appeal the ban, but declined to elaborate. The organization also said it will mandate new training measures for all coaches and staff, and run police checks on anyone in a leadership position.