Nearly a month after they fired Dave Scott-Thomas for “past unprofessional conduct,” the University of Guelph has offered a further explanation into the circumstances around his dismissal, and how Scott-Thomas seems to have enjoyed a position as one of Canada’s foremost track coaches almost 15 years after the first allegations were made.
To recap, back in December Scott-Thomas was put on a personal leave of absence after the U of G, “received information from past and current track and field athletes regarding their experiences on the team.” A couple of days after that, it was announced that Scott-Thomas was also taking a leave of absence from the Speed River Track and Field Club, a running club that Scott-Thomas founded in 1998.
Then, less than a week after the leave of absence was announced, the U of G released a statement to say that it had “terminated its relationship with Dave Scott-Thomas, the head coach of its track and field.”
“During the course of reviewing this information and in the last 24 hours, the University became privy to new information regarding past unprofessional conduct,” the statement read. “The well-being of our student-athletes is a priority; the University does not tolerate conduct from its coaches that is inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the University of Guelph and our University’s Coaches Code of Conduct.”
A statement released by the University on Thursday offered something that’s been missing in all the U of G’s statements concerning Scott-Thomas so far: details.
“In 2006, the University received a complaint from a family member of a student-athlete coached by Scott-Thomas. The University determined that an investigation was warranted and retained an independent external investigator,” the statement reads.
That investigation ” did not substantiate all of the allegations,” but a new complaint in fall 2019 forced the University to investigate again, and this time put Scott-Thomas on leave until the investigation was complete.
“While the 2019 investigation was ongoing, the University received new information related to the earlier investigation that made it clear that Scott-Thomas had lied repeatedly in 2006 about several significant matters,” the statement reads. “The receipt of that new information resulted in the termination of Scott-Thomas from his U of G position.
“Had the University been aware in 2006 of this information, it would have terminated its relationship with Scott-Thomas at that time,” it added.
This week, the University received the report of the independent investigator. “That report concluded that the behaviour of Scott-Thomas toward the relevant athlete violated the trust inherent in the coaching and mentoring relationship and breached the University’s Coaches Code of Conduct,” the statement said of the report’s conclusion.
For the students, the University of Guelph assures them that their wellbeing is a priority. A consulting firm called McLaren Global Sport Solutions is now conducting a review of the U of G’s practices and procedures so that a situation like this might be avoided in the future, and they’re asking students to come forward if they have any concerns.
“In recent years, U of G has progressively and proactively instituted new policies and supports, from coaching codes of conduct to improved supports in areas such as wellness and student counselling. The University has also made personnel changes including creating new roles that reflect an improved and changing culture,” the statement says.
In the mean time, Athletics Canada has also started its own investigation, and although they have not received any complaints about Scott-Thomas in his capacity has a volunteer coach with numerous Team Canada track teams, Athletics Canada still severed ties with the U of G and Speed River Track as the home of their new Canadian Centre of Excellence. On Thursday, Speed River Track posted notice to their website that they are ceasing all operations pertaining to athletic training and development, as well as hosting running events.
“Moving forward, there are initiatives underway to create a new training platform in which our top priority is to ensure continued programming for track and field athletes in our community in a fun, safe, and caring environment,” said general manager Scott MacDonald. “As these plans develop, we will provide further details to you as soon as practical.”