Canadian ski cross athlete Dave Duncan says he wants to set the record straight about what happened the night he, his wife and Willy Raine were arrested over a car theft during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Duncan, in an exclusive interview with CBC Sports, is breaking his silence about the incident that captured international headlines as the Games in Pyeongchang were winding down. The 36-year-old paints a very different picture about the circumstances surrounding what had been characterized as a drunken joyride.
"This incident obviously happened in an environment that allowed it to be magnified," Duncan said. "Headlines are sensationalized. We were all just trying to get home that evening. I had no reason to believe we were doing anything wrong or inappropriate."
On Feb. 24 — the second-last day of the Olympics — Duncan and his wife Maja were fined one million South Korean won ($ 1,176) for their roles in the theft of a red Hummer.
Raine, the ski cross high performance director within Alpine Canada, was also fined five million won ($ 5,880) for his involvement, which included driving the stolen vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.16, well above South Korea's legal limit of 0.05. For context, Raine's blood-alcohol level at the time of the incident was twice the Canadian limit of 0.08.
The trio spent about 24 hours in jail and did not participate in the closing ceremony. It was considered by many as a dark cloud hanging over Canada's historic performance at the Winter Olympics.
But Duncan, who is announcing his retirement, explains they had no idea they were stealing the vehicle in the first place.
Duncan shares his side of what happened at the Olympics
Duncan speaks out to give his side of the story on his arrest while competing in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 2:09
He said a group of Canadian ski cross athletes were celebrating their Olympic achievements in a private room at a local bar when a driver with credentials from International Olympic Committee befriended them.
"He showed us his credentials and said he was a fan of Canada and what we've done and that if we were looking for a ride home, to get in touch with him and then he'd take care of us," Duncan said.
They tracked the man down around midnight and took him up on his offer, he said.
"He escorted us out to the vehicle in question. We loaded in and then he led us to believe that we could take the vehicle and leave it at the Athletes' Village for collection the next day," Duncan said.
"There was no reason to believe that we couldn't trust this person."
Duncan said he, his wife, Raine and an assistant coach got in the Hummer. Duncan said they dropped the assistant coach off at another Olympic House party before making their way to the Athletes' Village. Police stopped them as they approached.
"It wasn't until we were pulled over that we found out that that vehicle was reported stolen," Duncan said.
"I was kind of in disbelief that we were in this situation to begin with. I thought at some point everyone might realize that there was a big misunderstanding and that would kind of be the end of it."
Reconciling what happened
The Duncans issued a written apology after the incident that said they were deeply sorry and "engaged in behaviour that demonstrated poor judgment and was not up to the standards expected of us as members of the Canadian Olympic team or as Canadians."
Duncan stands by that apology and said it's been a long process reconciling what happened that night.
"I guess what I've struggled with since this all happened is knowing that if I'm in that same situation again I'm probably making the same decision," Duncan said. "There was no reason to question what was going on or taking that vehicle that evening."
Duncan, pictured at an earlier event, apologized for his actions during the final weekend of the Winter Games. (Alessandro Trovati/Associated Press)
Duncan said he has not been in contact with the IOC regarding the credentialed person. That the IOC has not been in contact with him either, he said.
Duncan said he doesn't know the man's identity.
As for the alcohol consumed that night, Duncan admits to having a few beverages but said he had no idea Raine was intoxicated.
"We had no indication that he had had too many drinks that evening," Duncan said about Raine, whose mother is Nancy Greene, a Canadian skiing legend and retired B.C. senator.
"I want to believe that had I not been drinking, there might've been something I picked up on that would have led to to us avoiding the situation."
Ongoing legal issues in South Korea
Initial reports said the Hummer, which belongs to Yong Gil Ahn, was stolen while it was idling outside to charge the battery after it died.
Ahn said he went into a building for a coffee while he waited and called the police after he realized it was gone. It took officers about an hour to call him back saying they found it.
At the time, Ahn said the Canadians were responsible for damaging his Hummer and was wondering who was going to pay for it.
Duncan said there was no damage done to the vehicle. He and his wife are trying to have the car theft fine removed. He said they have another upcoming court date in South Korea.
"We have legal counsel in Korea helping us with all of this," Duncan said. "We don't feel we're guilty of the charge so we're going ahead and doing our best to fight it."
'This incident will not define me or my career'
Duncan is retiring from the sport he loves after three Olympic Games. That's why he's talking — he doesn't want this one incident he said was taken out of context to be how he's remembered.
The London, Ont., native finished in eighth in ski cross in Pyeongchang, improving on his 24th-place finish at the Sochi Games in 2014.
"This incident will not define me or my career," Duncan said. "I've prided myself on doing things a certain way my entire life and avoiding the crazy lifestyle. I think my teammates would describe me as quite bland and even boring from that side of things."
Duncan said it's been a long process trying to get over the maelstrom that followed the incident. He said he's received a lot of nasty messages and emails since it happened, and that he's been working through it all with the help of a psychologist.
It's been a reflective past eight months for Duncan as he ends his career.
"I want to view this as out of character but when it happens you know you start to question yourself. Am I the person that I think I am? And ultimately I have to rely on my lifetime of decision making and experiences over this.
"I would call this one-off an outlier."
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