Skip to main content

Vancouver Olympic organizer John Furlong in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. Furlong says he's been cleared by police of sexual-abuse allegations brought by a former student, although the RCMP says the file remains open.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

On the same day former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong announced he was dropping one lawsuit, his lawyer threatened to file another, sending a letter to a Danish sports institute in which he requested a freelance journalist not be permitted to speak at a conference.

Mr. Furlong, who had avoided the spotlight for months following claims he assaulted several former students when he was a physical education teacher in Burns Lake, B.C., four decades ago, spoke at length with The Globe and Mail on Monday.

It was then he announced he was dropping his lawsuit against the Georgia Straight, the weekly newspaper that last year published a story in which eight former students signed affidavits alleging physical abuse. Mr. Furlong said he would continue and escalate his lawsuit against the story's author, freelance journalist Laura Robinson.

Ms. Robinson, who is in Denmark to give a talk about Mr. Furlong at the Play the Game conference, released a letter Tuesday that was sent to the organization by Mr. Furlong's lawyer one day earlier. It asked that she not be given "an opportunity at your conference to make further defamatory statements about Mr. Furlong."

The letter, written by lawyer John Hunter, added: "If defamatory statements are made, Mr. Furlong may bring further legal action without further notice to you."

Mr. Hunter did not return a call seeking comment.

Ms. Robinson, in an e-mail, said Play the Game's directors had told her she had their full support. Her talk is scheduled for Wednesday. Bryan Baynham, her lawyer, said in an interview his client will continue to fight the lawsuit and welcomes the truth coming out in court.

Although Ms. Robinson's original story did not mention sexual abuse, three people who allege they were sexually abused by Mr. Furlong when they were students have filed lawsuits against him. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

In his interview Monday, Mr. Furlong said he had been told an RCMP investigation into one formal complaint had concluded and proven his innocence. But the RCMP said its file remains open. The force has refused to provide further information.

In a follow-up interview with Mr. Furlong on Tuesday, he was asked if it was possible one aspect of the investigation had been closed while others remained open. He maintained that as far as he's concerned his name has been cleared.

"The RCMP have said that the file is open and I am frankly expecting that in a short period of time, that the RCMP will come out and close this," he said.

Mr. Furlong has said he dropped his lawsuit against the Georgia Straight because the RCMP found him innocent, and because he wanted to focus on the source of the piece, Ms. Robinson.

Charlie Smith, the Straight's editor, referred a request for comment to lawyer Roger McConchie.

Mr. McConchie confirmed he received a notice of discontinuance in the case Tuesday. In an interview, he said he first learned the lawsuit had been dropped through news reports.

Mr. Baynham said it was unheard of for someone to start a claim against a major media outlet, drop it, and then proceed against only the uninsured freelance journalist.

Mr. Furlong said Monday he plans to escalate his case against Ms. Robinson, and documents amending the lawsuit against her will be filed in the coming days and weeks. He has called her story reckless and accused her of waging a vicious campaign against him.

Mr. Baynham said his client previously ruled out a counterclaim but is again considering it, following the latest remarks. He said he believes the lawsuit is an attempt to shift the focus from Mr. Furlong, and the allegations against him, to Ms. Robinson.

Interact with The Globe