Former Vancouver Olympics organizing committee CEO John Furlong, who has remained silent for the past year in the face of allegations in the media and in lawsuits that he physically and sexually abused former students, says he can no longer stay quiet.
Today, Furlong released a public statement in which he says an RCMP investigation has proven he is innocent of the allegations made by Beverley Abraham in the summer of 2012.
The RCMP issued a news release Monday noting that its investigation into the allegations was independently reviewed by major crime investigators from another province. No charges resulted from the investigation, but the file remains open, RCMP said.
Abraham has filed a complaint against the RCMP claiming the investigation was biased.
- Read more: No evidence in Furlong molestation allegations, say RCMP
- Document: Beverley Abraham's complaint against the RCMP
In his statement, Furlong also said he is dropping a lawsuit against the weekly paper that first published the allegations last fall, but that he is still suing the author of the article, Laura Robinson, for defamation.
In the lawsuit he filed against Robinson last fall, he said she "maliciously intended to injure his reputation" with an article published in the Georgia Straight in September 2012. The story detailed allegations of verbal and physical abuse during the time he spent as a physical education teacher in Burns Lake, B.C., in the late 1960s.
Two women — Abraham and Grace West — who claimed to be former students later filed lawsuits alleging physical and sexual abuse against Furlong. Those allegations were denied in statements of defence filed with the court by Furlong in September of this year. The same day, a third sex abuse lawsuit was filed in Vancouver by a man also claiming to be a former student of Furlong's.
None of the claims have been proven in court.
A lawyer for Robinson said it might be that Furlong's name isn't as clear as he thinks.
"It appears that there's an open file of some sort and [the RCMP have] not completed their investigation," Bryan Baynham said.
"That doesn't mean that he's cleared."
Baynham labelled it a "non-story about one interchange with the RCMP."
"There's nothing newsworthy about this, other than Mr. Furlong wanting to have a hook to mount an attack against my client."
Reacting to Furlong's statement Tuesday, Robinson rejected Furlong's suggestion she maliciously intended to injure his reputation.
"Of course there was no 'campaign' – just due diligence," wrote Robinson.
She is in Denmark this week to give a speech titled "Truth, Lies and History: John Furlong and Canadian Sports' Moral Vacuum" at a Play the Game conference.
Furlong has threatened to sue conference organizers if anything defamatory is said.
Play the Game is run by the Danish Institute for Sports Studies, an independent institution set up by the Danish Ministry of Culture.
John Furlong's statement: Enough Is Enough
For the last year, I have remained largely silent on the horrible, heartless lies and innuendo that have been published and broadcast about me, originating in articles and court documents from the activist Laura Robinson.
Today that silence ends. Enough is enough. I have been declared innocent by the RCMP and I am dropping one legal action and will escalate another.
RCMP Investigation shows my innocence
After a thorough investigation, the RCMP have cleared me of the allegations that Ms. Robinson brought to the RCMP on behalf of Beverley Abraham in the summer of 2012. I have both written and verbal confirmation of this finding, now in the hands of senior RCMP officials.
In correspondence with my legal counsel, the RCMP's investigating officer stated: “I can tell you the RCMP have concluded their investigation into that matter and found nothing to substantiate the complaint.” In a verbal briefing to my legal counsel last week the same RCMP officer advised that his thorough, 16-month investigation and final report confirms there is no truth to the claims she made against me.
I asked the RCMP for this investigation and I encouraged it. I then co-operated fully with the police. While this has been deeply painful and damaging in so many ways I thank the RCMP for their independence, professionalism and public service.
Discontinuation of Georgia Straight legal action
Given this finding of innocence by the RCMP I am today discontinuing my legal action against the Georgia Straight, the tabloid that was the only newspaper to publish Ms. Robinson’s original article. Their publication of this reckless article went ahead even after being warned by the RCMP about material, serious discrepancies in Laura Robinson’s reporting. That article was then subsequently reprinted and its contents broadcast widely, with devastating and pulverizing consequences on me and my family. But it is the source of these lies I wish to pursue.
Escalation of defamation action against Laura Robinson
My defamation case against Laura Robinson will continue and be escalated — she is the perpetrator of these defamatory allegations. She continues to defame me today and this will no longer go unchallenged. Ms. Robinson has a two decade-long pattern of inaccuracy in her writing. Her words have hurt innocent people. I will file those documents to amend my legal case against her in the coming days and weeks.
This is the same Laura Robinson who on at least four previous occasions — that I know of — is known to have publicly attacked or damaged the reputations of good people. In each case, she was proven to be wrong, very wrong:
- In 1994 she accused former Canadian national men's basketball coach Ken Shields of racism, alleging he kept minority players off the team. Her allegations were proven false by an independent investigation, and the charges in her article were fully retracted by the Globe and Mail.
- In a 2000 article in Chatelaine magazine she wrote that Vancouver Fire Department members set up private phone lines to arrange sexual encounters with women. The allegations were fully discredited through a commissioned investigation that found the phone lines had been in wide use for decades for emergency and personal contact between firefighters and their family members.
- In 2005, she alleged sexual harassment against Keith Benson, former principal of UBC's Green College where she had been studying. He resigned his position after that false allegation. A year later she recanted that allegation in court and the case was dropped.
- In 2012, she filed a court document saying I abused my former wife. Within 24 hours, she and my children stated publicly that these allegations were false, reckless and damaging. Laura Robinson was proven wrong again. But her pattern is clear.
Laura Robinson has used the courts as a platform in a campaign to publish horrendous and false accusations she could not write or publish under her own byline, even in the original article in the Georgia Straight.
More importantly, this was a calculated form of irresponsible, back-door publishing designed to ruin my hard-earned reputation. Again, it is a deeply damaging misuse of the court and the media. It has been devastating beyond measure to my family and me.
I am a public figure, a byproduct of my proudest achievement as a Canadian — being given the privilege and honour of leading the team that organized the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver.
False allegations against public figures, as I have discovered at great cost, are deemed big news. Once Laura Robinson placed her explosive, false allegations in those privileged court documents, nobody paused or waited for the judge and a trial to test their truthfulness in court. The hurt and damage was immediate.
Laura Robinson’s unproven written and verbal allegations against me were instantly deemed newsworthy and were widely reported on and quoted. And because those false allegations were in a court document, it was incorrectly assumed they could be reported — and repeated — with impunity. This put me and my family under the most horrible and vicious scrutiny, exposing us to continuing humiliation, ridicule, and destroyed our privacy.
I have always respected the courts and media as foundations of our society. The women and men in them do their best to bring about truth, fairness and justice. But I ask any reasonable person to consider what they would do if someone did this to them, or a family member?
I’m not sure anyone can undo the damage done to us. I also do not know or understand the motives for Laura Robinson’s campaign against me. But I do know, despite numerous warnings from my legal counsel to Ms. Robinson that her allegations are wrong, her vicious campaign is continuing, even escalating.
Instead of respectfully waiting for the court and the RCMP to do their jobs properly, as I have, she is now sending defamatory letters and documents to my friends, employers and other organizations that I work with, slurring my reputation. This is palpable harassment.
This activist is also now spreading these horrible allegations about me in Europe, at a conference called Play The Game. Her talk is titled — Truth, Lies and History: John Furlong and Canadian Sports’ Moral Vacuum.
Well – enough is enough.
In 40 years of living, working and public service in B.C., there had never been a complaint about me. Never a criminal charge, nor a reason for one. Laura Robinson then made one. The RCMP has found her allegation against me to be completely unfounded. And any other allegations out there are just as false.
This is not an acceptable way to treat any Canadian, or to use the courts. I believe I have a responsibility to expose the tactics that have been so hurtful and damaging to me and could be used against others.
I will continue to pursue my defamation against Laura Robinson in the courts and, now, expose her questionable tactics and methods to Canadians. This should not happen to anyone.
I am in debt to my many friends and supporters, who have stood by us over the past year. No amount of thanks will ever be enough. I look forward to better days and a return to public service.