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Former Canadian gymnastics coach Dave Brubaker arrives at the courthouse with his wife Elizabeth, in Sarnia, Ont., on Feb. 13, 2019.Mark Spowart/The Canadian Press

Eleven Canadian gymnasts who pushed for an investigation into abuse allegations by coaches Dave and Elizabeth Brubaker applauded the news Wednesday that the couple has withdrawn appeals of their coaching bans.

“While no punishment can or will reverse the damage done by the abuse we endured as athletes, we are confident the panel’s decision will serve to protect others and prevent future harm from being done,” the gymnasts said in a statement.

Dave Brubaker, who coached Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was banned for life by Gymnastics Canada last year after an internal investigation into multiple complaints spanning two decades. He’d been suspended in 2017 after he was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse. He was found not guilty, but GymCan launched its own investigation after numerous complaints.

His wife, Elizabeth, was suspended in 2019 through 2024.

The Brubakers have denied all allegations.

“We are relieved that this matter is now concluded so that we can focus on what matters most and that is to ensure that all participants have a healthy training and competition environment,” Ian Moss, CEO of GymCan, said in a statement. “We appreciate how difficult this experience has been on the brave athletes who came forward and vow to make the necessary systemic improvements to ensure a positive and healthy culture.”

The 11 gymnasts – Melanie (Rocca) Hunt, April Nicholls, Alheli Picazo, Abby (Pearson) Spadafora, Alysia Topol, and six others referred to as “Athletes A, B, H, I, J and K” – comprise the core group of athletes who pushed for a third-party investigation and testified in the 2020 disciplinary procedure with Gymnastics Canada.

“We are moving forward, and the firm conclusion of this process marks the beginning of an opportunity to truly heal, individually and collectively,” their statement said.

“We are reclaiming our power and our voices, and will use both to advocate for change and accountability. We will tell our truths – the truth – in time, and work to ensure that future generations of athletes, no matter their level of skill or sport of choice, are spared of what we were not.”

In its decision of March 12, 2021, the discipline panel found that, in complaints that ranged from 1996 to 2017, the Brubakers’ “misconduct and resulting code violations constituted physical, verbal and emotional abuse and harassment, child abuse and neglect, several forms of sexual harassment and misconduct, and various other forms of misconduct including discriminatory and unethical behaviour.”

Further, their behaviour “violated numerous coaching and training standards and obligations relating to athlete safety and protection,” and that, “their repeated misconduct demonstrated a willful and persistent disregard for the ethical principles that governed their conduct and their obligations as coaches of child and youth athletes.”

While the gymnasts were satisfied with the final outcome, they decried the multiyear investigative process with Gymnastics Canada as “harmful and re-victimizing.”

“It centred abusers over victims, compounded the trauma of survivors and prolonged what had already been an open-ended nightmare.

“That process cannot be allowed to continue as is.”

The appeal withdrawal is a bit of good news in a sport that has been rife with accusations of maltreatment. More than 400 current and former gymnasts and coaches signed an open letter to Sport Canada calling for a third-party investigation into their sport, a story that caught the attention of U.S. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who famously sentenced Larry Nassar to life in prison in the U.S. gymnastics sexual abuse scandal that involved hundreds of girls and women.

Pascale St-Onge said since she was appointed Canada’s sport minister almost six months ago, more than eight national sport organizations have faced accusations of everything from sexual abuse to misappropriation of funds, among them rowing, rugby and bobsled/skeleton.

St-Onge accelerated a third-party mechanism within the Sports Dispute and Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) to hear complaints of abuse. She vowed it would be operational by the end of spring and last week former artist swimmer Sarah-Eve Pelletier was named Canada’s first sport integrity commissioner.