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Toronto-area gymnastics coach charged with sexual assault of teen girl

Scott McFarlane, 28, a Toronto-area gymnastics coach, has been charged with sexual assault of a teenage girl.

A Canadian gymnastics coach is facing a number of charges after one of his teenaged athletes came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.

Scott McFarlane, 28, turned himself in to Peel Regional Police on Monday, three days after a Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued for him.

Mr. McFarlane is an active gymnastics coach in Peel Region, west of Toronto, and also had ties to gymnastic organizations in Oakville, Ont., Ottawa and Western Canada.

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He has been charged with sexual assault, sexual interference, child luring under 16 years old, making sexually explicit materials available to a person under 16 years of age and indecent exposure to a person under 16 years of age.

Mr. McFarlane appeared in court on Monday and was released on bail, according to Constable Bancroft Wright of the Peel police.

Constable Wright said that, given Mr. McFarlane's status as a gymnastics coach, police investigators believe there might be more victims. He said police are urging any others who may have been in contact with Mr. McFarlane to come forward.

Mr. McFarlane's arrest casts a further cloud over the world of gymnastics, still reeling from the aftershocks of last week's sentencing in the United States of sports physician Larry Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison.

The disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct after more than 150 women and girls said in court that he sexually abused them over two decades.

On Tuesday, in response to the charges against Mr. McFarlane, Gymnastics Canada and Gymnastics Ontario both announced the coach has been suspended indefinitely.

"Gymnastics Canada has a zero tolerance policy for any type of behaviour that puts the safety and well-being of our participants at risk," Richard Crepin, chair of the board of directors at Gymnastics Canada, said in a news release. "More than words through, it's actions that count."

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Peel police said the charges against Mr. McFarlane stemmed from an investigation after a 15-year-old girl came forward to report numerous incidents that are alleged to have transpired between her and her gymnastics coach over a four-year period.

Dave Sandford, chief executive officer of Gymnastics Ontario, said that Mr. McFarlane first fell into disfavor with the organization back in October, when he received a three-month suspension for being in contravention of Gymnastic Ontario's harassment policy.

Mr. Sandford would not provide details behind that initial suspension, only to say that it did involve the female complainant who eventually would come forward to the police.

At the time in October, Mr. Sandford said Gymnastics Ontario did not believe the harassment issue warranted any police involvement.

"We did go through legal counsel and everything else and no, it was not criminal in nature," he said. "It was a harassment. He violated the harassment policy and he was suspended under those rules."

On Dec. 15, another Canadian gymnastics coach, Dave Brubaker, was charged in Sarnia, Ont. with one count of invitation to sexual touching and three counts each of sexual assault, sexual exploitation and sexual interference.

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Mr. Brubaker was Canada's head gymnastics coach at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and coached at the Bluewater Gymnastics Club in Sarnia for more than 30 years.

He is to appear again in court on Feb. 6.

On Dec. 7, Gymnastics Canada suspended Michel Arsenault, an Edmonton-based gymnastics coach after reports surfaced that he sexually abused three former students in Quebec in the 1980s and 1990s.

In light of the recent spate of bad publicity to have befallen the sport, Mr. Crepin was asked during a telephone interview what was being done to ensure the health and welfare of young gymnasts in Canada.

"One thing for sure is, in Canada we don't wait," he said, referring to the quick suspensions of both Mr. McFarlane and Mr. Brubaker. "If you look at what happened in the States, a lot of people just kind of pushed it [the sexual allegations] away.

"For us, as soon as we are made aware that there is some misconduct on the part of a coach … we take action right away."

Added Mr. Sandford: "I think both Gymnastics Canada and Gymnastics Ontario are continually trying to revise our policies and continue to update them so that we can eliminate these types of activities and conduct from coaches. I'm confident in what we're trying to do to mitigate this."

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