The crisis hitting Boxing Canada should not stop there

Last Sunday, Boxing Canada’s director of high performance, Daniel Tribunier, tendered his resignation.

Four days ago, 121 athletes (current and former), coaches, officials and members of the provincial federations published an open letter calling for the resignation of Daniel Tribunier. They also called for an investigation into Boxing Canada’s inability to govern itself satisfactorily.

The prosecutors, whose testimony was carefully collected, provoked a toxic culture and a climate of fear and silence. Issues of harassment and nepotism were also raised.

Last Friday, two days after the open letter was published, Canadian boxing took off on the international scene when the International Amateur Boxing Federation stripped Danielle Tribanier of his accreditation for the Women’s World Championship, which began 48 hours later.

Given the serious allegations made by the signatories to the letter, the International Federation indicated that it would be particularly interested in the way this file will be pursued by the Canadian sports authorities.

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Following the resignation of Danielle Tribunier, Boxing Canada is now looking to the future. The Canadian Federation indicated that a search committee will be formed in the coming weeks, in cooperation with the provincial associations, to find another high-performing manager.

However, it will be very easy if we easily clear the list and if Boxing Canada can start working again as if nothing happened.

You can’t turn the page that easily in a 12-year episode. Moreover, many of the signatories to the letter, let us recall, demanded not only the departure of Trepannier, but also an investigation into the cause of their dysfunction in their union.

This is the killer question.

Boxing Canada’s governing body says it commissioned an external report last March. She said the federation wanted to conduct a comprehensive review of the culture of its high-performance program and ensure that Canadian boxers could be developed in an ideal environment.

However, this work was accomplished six years ago. In 2016, he produced Report Gary Keegan, an Irish boxing expert who was also Director of the Irish Institute of Sports.

Keegan, whose credibility rating is very high in the industry, had himself noticed the performance of the Canadian boxing program. He invited union members to answer a questionnaire, and secondly, he interviewed people working at all levels within Boxing Canada.

By the end of the fiscal year, Keegan’s report was poor. At the beginning of the document, the three findings that summarize its approach were:

  • There is no clear mandate, established policies or infrastructure that would allow Boxing Canada to operate in a high performance environment;
  • The training and development system and support structures surrounding top athletes lag far behind what a world-class athlete environment should be in;
  • The application of training, management, science, medicine, lifestyle and environmental expertise that motivates people and enhances performance is in dire need of improvement.

Put yourself in a responsible, less serious position. I read this and the report didn’t even start. It seems to me that you are telling yourself at once that the house is on fire and that there is a serious jolt to be made.

The report was also filled with very clear sentences like Former athletes in the program have low levels of confidence in Boxing Canada’s staff and board of directors . The author also emphasized that the coaches did not present serious shortcomings in the preparation of the athletes, such as the lack of training partners or international opponents. Gary Keegan also pointed out the lack of performance metrics, the overall lack of talent identification process, the lack of resources, etc.

You read this and tell yourself that the members of Boxing Canada were very patient before preparing their open letter. A lot of patience, because fate should have jumped several years ago. Above all, what this report tells us is that if the competent officials were in place, the athletes would have been protected and a quick home cleaning would be performed in Boxing Canada starting in 2016.

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It is for this reason that the Minister of Sports, Pascal Saint Ong, must ensure that an independent investigation is carried out. Not to identify the culprits, but above all to ensure that high-ranking Canadian athletes will never again be exposed to similar situations in their pursuit of excellence.

Wearing Canadian colors in international competition has to be one of the greatest achievements in an athlete’s life. It certainly shouldn’t be the kind of ordeal that more and more athletes from a growing number of sports disciplines are denouncing and describing.

Just last March, 80 bobsleigh and skeletal federation athletes demanded the resignations of two of the national federation’s top leaders. They alleged safety issues, flawed culture, lack of transparency, and arbitrary decisions.

Also last March, 71 gymnasts (including 10 Olympians) published an open letter condemning the toxic culture and abusive practices within their athletic community.

In April 2021, just before the Tokyo Games, 37 female rugby players denounced the psychological violence, harassment and intimidation they claimed to be victims of.

And in September 2020, 18 athletes from the national swimming team filed a complaint. They said they trained in a hostile environment marked by harassment and abuse. However, their complaints were not accepted, and four months later, five former swimmers filed a class action lawsuit against their union for psychological abuse, as well as sexual and racial harassment.

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If Canada’s Sports Minister and Minister Saint Ong don’t see an alarming number of cases that require an exceptionally strong response, what does it take?

Serious investigations are absolutely necessary to find the common root, if there is one, which has made it possible for such rotten climates to develop and become an integral part of the sporting programs that are supposed to be Canada’s pioneer.

And while we wait for the abscess to break, let us hope that if other federations are plagued by the same evil, the athletes in turn will have the courage to stand up and condemn the situation.

Noting all the support they have today, Canadian boxers must bitterly regret that they waited so long to pack up.

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