Ex-U.S. athlete tells Speed Skating Canada of head coach's alleged sexual relationships with skaters

A former U.S. speed skater says she reported allegations to Speed Skating Canada in November that head coach Michael Crowe had sexual relationships with several of his athletes when he coached elite skaters south of the border in the 1990s and early 2000s.

A second U.S. speed skater has come forward to CBC News alleging she was in a relationship with Crowe when he coached her at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

Earlier this week, CBC Sports revealed Crowe is on leave from Speed Skating Canada pending an internal investigation.

Crowe had two stints as a coach for the U.S. team, from 1983 to 1991, and 1999 to 2006. He was hired by Speed Skating Canada the following year, and was promoted to head coach in 2015.

Michael Crowe, head coach of Canada’s long-track speed-skating team, has taken a leave of absence with less than a month to go before the start of the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.(Kevin Light Photography/CBC)

News of his abrupt departure comes just weeks before the Canadian team will compete in the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Speed Skating Canada has repeatedly declined CBC’s requests for comment. The governing body hasn’t shared details about the nature of its internal investigation.

Its sexual harassment policy makes it clear sexual relationships between coaches and athletes are never acceptable.  

Long-standing complaints

Eva Rodansky says Speed Skating Canada CEO Susan Auch contacted her directly last year and asked her to come forward with her long-standing complaints about Crowe.

Rodansky has blogged and given interviews alleging she was passed over for a spot on the 2006 U.S. Olympic speed-skating team in favour of an athlete she claims was having an affair with coach Crowe.

CBC could not independently verify her claims and has tried repeatedly to contact Crowe, who has not responded to requests for comment.

Rodansky says Speed Skating Canada encouraged her to advise other former athletes on the U.S. team to come forward if they have additional information about Crowe.(Getty Images)

Rodansky says Auch advised her in November to contact Speed Skating Canada’s confidential harassment hotline to provide details about her allegations.

“I do believe that Crowe’s relationships with female athletes under his authority was somewhat of a locker room joke in the speed-skating scene,” Rodansky told CBC News this week.

She says Speed Skating Canada also encouraged her to advise other former athletes on the U.S. team to come forward if they have additional information.

Rodansky alleges she was aware of at least three relationships Crowe had with skaters during his time with the U.S. team.

‘I always wanted his approval’

A second former skater of Crowe’s in the U.S. has learned Speed Skating Canada also wants to hear from her.   

Speaking publicly for the first time, Chantal Cermak told CBC News she had a two-year relationship with Crowe when he was her coach in the early 1990s. She was in her mid-20s and made it to the 1994 Lillehammer Games.  

Crowe went to three Olympics as a coach for the U.S. squad.

The U.S. Olympic Committee’s current code of ethics says “coaches do not engage in sexual intimacies with current athletes.”

It is not clear what the U.S. policy was during the time of these allegations.

Cermak says she now views the relationship as an abuse of power and wrong.

“I can see that it wasn’t just a relationship between two adults,” she said. “This is someone who uses his power over vulnerable athletes. And for me, I always wanted his approval.”

Cermak hasn’t formally lodged a complaint with Speed Skating Canada, but says she’s considering it.

‘Power imbalance’

CBC News has asked Speed Skating Canada whether it was aware of any sexual misconduct allegations involving Crowe in the U.S. prior to hiring him in Canada in 2007. And whether the organization has received any complaints from Canadian athletes.

“At this point, as a matter of policy, we will not speak to personnel matters,” spokesperson Patrick Godbout said in an email.

Susan Auch took over as CEO of Speed Skating Canada in February 2017. She declined requests for comment on this story.(The Canadian Press)

The organization’s sexual harassment policy, which includes a coaches code of conduct and was adopted in 1999, says coaches must “at no time become intimately and/or sexually involved with their athletes. This includes requests for sexual favours or threat of reprisal for the rejection of such requests.”

The policy says the “athlete/coach relationship is a privileged one.”

“Coaches play a critical role in the personal as well as athletic development of their athletes. They must understand and respect the inherent power imbalance that exists in this relationship and must be extremely careful not to abuse it.”

Auch, who took over as CEO of Speed Skating Canada in February 2017, has declined requests for comment.

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