Runner Megan Brown bravely steps forward to share her story
The question is, are the right people listening to make sure her effort isn't wasted?
A disturbing, maddening and sad article outlining allegations of systematic abuse endured by runner Megan Brown when she was just a teenager was published in the Globe and Mail last weekend. Following its publication, statements were issued by organizations that were mentioned in the story. There was also a groundswell of support for Brown as people credited her bravery in coming forward. Others questioned how something like this could ever happen.
“This is how abuse of power works”–Megan Brown, once promising top runner courageously exposes her coach’s sexual abuse+toxic training—and how her family’s efforts to report went ignored for years by Univ+Canadian sport authorities.— Minky Worden (@MinkysHighjinks) February 11, 2020
Story in @globeandmailhttps://t.co/NVzwMr2qpC pic.twitter.com/diTLE4yBUG
There are many key findings from the Globe's article linked here but two of the most troubling were regarding the organizations that were supposed to be there to support young athletes.
"Athletics Canada, the sport’s governing body, was aware of a sexual relationship between Ms. Brown and Mr. Scott-Thomas more than a decade ago. Despite this, he continued to be selected as a national team coach, including for the 2016 Olympics," the article read.
and, regarding the University of Guelph:
"The Globe’s investigation reveals that the University of Guelph was told of Mr. Scott-Thomas’s relationship with Ms. Brown in 2006, but continued to employ the star coach – who won the national championships, helped raise millions of dollars for university facilities, and burnished the school’s and the city’s reputation as an important athletics hub – after a brief suspension. He also grafted his own club onto the university, producing Olympic talent, and attracting hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorship money and government funding."
The organizations cited responded with prepared statements.
Athletics Canada issued a press release acknowledging that the organization was "deeply disturbed" by the "allegations" concerning Brown and Dave Scott-Thomas contained in the Globe and Mail article.
Athletics Canada also noted there was: "no complaint was made against Mr Scott-Thomas, to either Athletics Canada or it’s independent Commissioner’s Office, since the inception of the independent Commissioner’s Office in 2015."
Megan Brown's case dates back to the early 2000s. After a semester at the University of Guelph, she left to attend the University of Toronto where she had a successful collegiate running career. The relevance of this date is unclear.
The full Athletics Canada statement here.
There was a subsequent response to this by the Athletics Canada Athlete Council that expressed understanding and empathy toward Brown and what she went through.
The Athlete Council said, in part, that it "deeply condemns the lack of action taken by Athletics Canada and its leadership at the time that Megan's family was seeking help and support. This inaction and dismissal perpetrated a culture of disempowerment of sex abuse victims."
The Council also thanked Megan for her "immense courage in coming forward," as well as reinforcing its "continued support for an independent third party Safe Sport mechanism to ensure athletes are appropriately addressed."
The University of Guelph also issued two statements. One an official press release that didn't mention the name Megan Brown but said the university found the Globe article to be "deeply troubling." The statement also mentions that "the University has started the process of making personal and public apologies and offered support to those who endured suffering and hardship, and we will continue to reach out to and help former and current athletes."
It states that the current administration did what the past administrations did not, and that is fire Dave Scott-Thomas as soon as it had heard of the allegations this past December.
The second statement was a personal message from U of G president Franco Vaccarino.
Although he does also make it clear that he was not at the University of Guelph when this happened, he goes one step further and reaches out to victims, including Brown, stating, in part, that Scott-Thomas's "termination from U of G does not – and cannot – make up for the fact that people experienced hardships and suffering. For this, I am truly sorry. I extend a personal apology to any current or former student-athletes who experienced inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour. I commend those who came forward for their strength and courage."
Following the article, there was an outpouring of support for Brown on social media. Few of the comments were more compelling than those of Krista Duchene, a highly successful runner who is also well-known as a mother and family person.
1/3— Krista DuChene (@kristaduchene) February 9, 2020
The last few months have been a struggle.
I went to the University of Guelph.
I was coached by Dave Scott-Thomas and part of Speed River.
I raced against and knew Megan Brown.
I was contacted by Michael Doyle but knew nothing.
I waited to know what happened.
2/3— Krista DuChene (@kristaduchene) February 9, 2020
I was in tears when I read it.
It was, is, heartbreaking and disturbing.
I hope and pray this helps direct all of us, particularly Megan, to a path of closure and healing.
It must bring change.
Please know many of us did not know.
I do not want my children to read this.
No doubt we haven't heard the end of this story.
Hopefully, Brown's bravery in coming forward after all these years will help to kickstart some positive organizational changes that need to happen at the grassroots level to help protect our young athletes from predators.