Steve Fonyo, seen in 1985 after he completed his cross-country marathon, was stripped of his Order of Canada following a number of criminal convictions. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

Steve Fonyo, the one-legged athlete who ran across the country to raise money for cancer research, has been stripped of his Order of Canada, the governor general's office said in a news release.

Canada's highest civilian honour was revoked from Fonyo on Dec. 10, 2009, because of "his multiple criminal convictions, for which there are no outstanding appeals," the release said Monday.

Fonyo, who lost a leg to cancer at 12, received his Order of Canada in November 1985 for running nearly 8,000 kilometres across the country in 1984 and 1985 to raise more than $13 million for cancer research.

The one-time hero has battled personal demons, including cocaine addiction and depression. In 1996, he pleaded guilty in Edmonton to more than a dozen charges, ranging from assault with a weapon to fraud and theft.

He received an 18-month conditional sentence and two years' probation and was ordered to pay about $11,000 to two supermarkets where he bounced dozens of cheques.

At the time, he was working as a mechanic in a B.C. town and hoping to write a book and turn his life around.

By 2008, he had at least seven driving convictions, including impaired driving, for which he served time in jail that year.

Last summer, while working as a mechanic in Surrey, B.C., Fonyo received the news that he would lose his Order of Canada, his former boss Satnam Singh Sidhu told CBC News.

"He was very upset that they were taking it back from him," said Sidhu, co-owner of Trans Canada Auto & Transmission Services. "He was feeling that it was part of him and it was something that was given to him and it shouldn't be taken away."

Membership to the Order of Canada can be terminated if the recipient:

  • Has been convicted of a criminal offence.
  • Departs from generally recognized standards of public behaviour.
  • Has been sanctioned by a professional organization.

Other Canadians who have lost the Order of Canada include former NHL Players' Association head Alan Eagleson, after he was convicted of fraud, and lawyer T. Sher Singh, whom the Law Society of Upper Canada disbarred after finding him guilty of professional misconduct.

With files from The Canadian Press