A former Canadian Olympic kayaker has been banned from participating in the sport after a panel of adjudicators concluded he had used his status a decade ago to groom teenage girls competing in Canoe Kayak Canada’s high-performance program and coerce them into sex acts, in some cases while they were severely intoxicated.
Angus Mortimer, 38, was a member of the national team from 2005 to 2016, and competed in the 2008 Olympic Games as a sprint kayaker. He briefly worked as a coach for a Mississauga canoe club in 2019. That was the same year a group of five former athletes lodged a complaint about him with Canoe Kayak Canada, which governs the sport nationally.
This week, more than four years after the initial complaints, the organization posted the ban on its website, saying Mr. Mortimer had violated the organization’s harassment policy, as well as its sexual harassment policy. The organization offered no detail about the behaviour that gave rise to this prohibition, citing the privacy of those involved.
But a copy of the panel’s reasons for the ban, obtained by The Globe and Mail, details a pattern of alleged abusive behaviour. It says Mr. Mortimer would identify vulnerable female athletes, as young as 15, and first approach them on social media. Mr. Mortimer would then sexualize the relationship, the document says, first in online messaging apps, and then in person. The accusations that gave rise to the ban concern incidents that allegedly took place between him and the five complainants between 2009 and 2013.
The panel was an internal disciplinary body made up of three lawyers. It did not have the authority to determine whether any crimes had occurred. The decision document says a lawyer contracted by Canoe Kayak Canada to investigate the matter informed Ottawa police of the accusations in November, 2019, and that there was a criminal investigation. That case has been closed, and Mr. Mortimer was not charged with any crime.
The panel’s decision says Canoe Kayak Canada put its disciplinary proceeding on hold so that criminal probe could proceed, which led to a delay. The Ottawa Police Service declined to comment on the case. Mr. Mortimer’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.
The panel said in its decision that Mr. Mortimer had violated policies prohibiting sexual harassment and sexual assault.
“When specifically asked what possible reason he would have had to befriend teenage girls when he was many years their senior, Mortimer responded that he had ‘no answer,’ let alone any reason,” the decision document, dated March 22, 2023, says. “From this the panel concludes that his pattern of befriending girls much younger than himself cannot be seen as well-intentioned.”
Although the panel’s decision was finalized more than eight months ago, the ban was not announced until this week to allow Mr. Mortimer his right to pursue an appeal, Casey Wade, the chief executive officer of Canoe Kayak Canada, said in an e-mail. Mr. Mortimer’s appeal to Canoe Kayak Canada was rejected on July 31, and a subsequent appeal to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada was recently abandoned, Mr. Wade said.
In an open letter to Canoe Kayak Canada members, Mr. Wade said the organization “commends the courage of the complainants who have come forward and will continue to offer support to them in relation to this matter.”
Throughout the hearing, which took place remotely on a Zoom video call over the course of four days this past January, Mr. Mortimer and his lawyer said the sexual contact was consensual. In its findings, the panel said this wasn’t credible. “Having regard to all of the relevant circumstances applicable to the Respondent and the women, including age differences, power imbalance, and states of intoxication, the Panel believes that the affirmative consent standard should govern the issue in this case,” the document says.
Although the decision identifies the complainants, The Globe is not naming them because all five were teenagers at the time of the incidents, and they were found by the panel to have been victims.
One complainant told the panel that, when she first met Mr. Mortimer in 2010, she was 17 and he was 24. She was new to the program and didn’t know anybody, so when Mr. Mortimer friended her on Facebook she was “star struck,” she told the panel. The two of them had three sexual encounters over the following months, including one where she was intoxicated, she said.
The woman said that, during the last incident, in 2011, Mr. Mortimer used his hand to force her into an oral sex act. “I know that I did not really want to be doing what he was making me do,” she told the panel.
The panel said she was credible and persuasive. It found that Mr. Mortimer “took advantage of [her] naivety and vulnerability to obtain a personal sexual advantage.”
The panel found that a different victim had woken up in a hotel room to Mr. Mortimer raping her. Mr. Mortimer told the panel the activity was consensual, but text messages he wrote showed that he knew she was intoxicated and that she had been vomiting beforehand, the panel found. Those messages also showed, the panel wrote, that when he was reflecting on the night in question “he felt badly in light of her situation.”
The panel noted that Mr. Mortimer had continually argued in the hearing that his behaviour was common and accepted within Canoe Kayak Canada’s high-performance culture at the time. The document says he referred to “hookup culture” and “a culture in which alcohol was prevalent and underage drinking in particular was enabled.”
The panel faulted the organization for its lack of supervision at parties and events that took place after sanctioned competitions. The absence of oversight, and the accessibility of alcohol for underage athletes at these parties, “played a role in the susceptibility of several of the witnesses to Mortimer’s problematic behaviour and conduct,” the panel found.
The panel recommended Canoe Kayak Canada improve its supervision at both events and training camps, and ensure that the organization is following the policies it promotes.
The organization said in a statement that a series of measures are now in place, including a prohibition on alcohol at team competitions and training camps, mandatory safe sport training for all members of the national team, enhanced screening and education programs, and a video series covering policies for younger athletes.
The statement also said that the organization has signed on with the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner, an independent department of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada. Earlier this year, the federal government required that all national sport organizations join the OSIC in order to continue to receive public funding.
In his letter to the members of Canoe Kayak Canada, Mr. Wade said the organization “strongly supports all participants’ rights to compete in an environment that is safe and free from harassment, maltreatment, and abuse.”