A move by Canadian bobsled and skeleton athletes to unseat Sarah Storey hit a snag this week with the abrupt adjournment of the federation’s annual general meeting.
Storey, the president of the board and acting CEO of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, adjourned a heated meeting in Calgary on Thursday before there was any vote, walking out in a dramatic ending.
Storey and high performance director Chris Le Bihan, who left the AGM with Storey, have been the target of criticism for months from athletes who’ve decried what they call a toxic environment of maltreatment within the organization.
“[Storey] actively tried to prevent the athletes and members from speaking through the proper process and voting,” said Neville Wright, who finished fifth in the four-man bobsled at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. “And Sarah unilaterally attempted to adjourn the meeting and walked away when the athletes demanded to be heard.”
Tara McNeil, a 53-year-old sport physiologist from Calgary, has put her name forward for president, after she was approached by a group of athletes to run for the position. Storey hasn’t announced whether she would seek a third four-year term.
In a video of the brouhaha, Storey takes the podium to announce the adjournment, leading to a loud outcry from many people in the room.
BCS said in a statement to The Canadian Press that the organization had received credible information that there may have been irregularities in the verification processes of voters from the provincial sport organizations.
“Although BCS has been working to verify these memberships, as at the date of the AGM, BCS has been unable to determine the BCS members who are eligible to vote, or to be elected as directors at this meeting,” the statement said. “It is of the utmost importance to the board of directors of BCS that the fairness and integrity of the decisions to be made at the annual general meeting of BCS is preserved.”
BCS called a recess during the AGM to meet with legal counsel. The board of directors, according to the statement, recommended that all matters set out in the notice calling the meeting be adjourned.
Cynthia Appiah, who was fifth in monobob at the 2021 world championships and eighth at last winter’s Beijing Olympics, said she was proud of her teammates at the meeting.
“I’m beyond impressed with how the team stuck with each other and didn’t give up,” she said. “People spoke up and felt empowered from each other speaking up.”
BCS said the purpose of the adjournment was to ensure only members eligible to vote are able to vote, and that all eligible members are able to vote.
“Which BCS strongly believes is necessary to preserve the fairness and integrity of the decisions to be made at the Annual General Meeting of BCS,” the statement said.
A new AGM date has not been announced.
A group of more than 90 current and retired athletes – BCS Athletes for Change – first called on Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge in early March, denouncing their national sport organization for issues around governance, transparency and athlete safety.
The group renewed their call for action in August, and included a 24-page collection of lived or observed athlete experiences, which was presented to BCS’s board of directors.
Madison Charney, a retired skeleton athlete, said there were no issues with the authenticity of voters, saying the voter lists from the provincial organizations had been notarized.
“I wish I could say I was hopeful,” Charney said. “But until she is no longer president and we have someone else in that position, I will not be hopeful, because there’s always something that she can do.
“She just seems to be one step ahead of us at every point.”
Wright said the abrupt adjournment didn’t follow BCS bylaws.
“What matters most is the perspective of the athletes,” Wright added. “And right now, they don’t want her leadership, they still want her resignation and the resignation of Chris Le Bihan. And they both made it clear by walking out where their stance is, that they don’t care what anyone says, they’re not following their own policies or bylaws.
“They’re going to do whatever they want. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”