CBC Investigates

Speed Skating Canada investigating 'substantive' complaints against head coach

The head of Speed Skating Canada tells CBC News the organization is investigating “substantive” complaints against its head coach, Michael Crowe.

Outside investigator hired to probe 'serious' situation on eve of Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

CBC News reported Friday on allegations by former U.S. athletes alleging Michael Crowe had sexual relationships with some skaters during his time coaching in the United States prior to coming to Canada in 2007. (Kevin Light/CBC)

The head of Speed Skating Canada tells CBC News the organization is investigating "substantive" complaints against its head coach, Michael Crowe.

CEO Susan Auch says the organization forced Crowe to leave his position on Jan. 9, just a month before the Winter Olympics, after a number of athletes and coaches came forward.

"The decision to put him on leave was based on recent feedback by Canadian athletes and coaches," Auch said. "It was substantive enough to call for an investigation. It wasn't one person."

Auch declined to comment on the exact nature of the complaints. She, however, acknowledged a report by CBC News on Friday detailing allegations by former U.S. athletes claiming Crowe had sexual relationships with some skaters during his time coaching in the United States prior to coming to Canada in 2007.

Crowe is seen with Canadian speed skater Cindy Klassen during a practice session in Richmond, B.C., in February 2010. (Adrian Wyld/ The Canadian Press)

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.

Auch stressed to CBC News that Speed Skating Canada has strong values and a code of conduct that governs relationships between coaches and athletes.

CBC News has repeatedly sought comment from Crowe, who has not returned emails or telephone messages.

An Olympic-level coach has been accused of having affairs with his athletes. A former U.S. speed skater tells CBC News that she has come forward to Speed Skating Canada to report allegations that Canada's head coach, Michael Crowe, had sexual relationships with athletes during his time as a coach in the United States. Crowe coached American speed skaters until 2006; he was hired by Canada the next year. Crowe abruptly took a leave of absence earlier this month, pending an internal investigation by Speed Skating Canada and will remain on leave until after the Olympics. Speed Skating Canada has not confirmed what's behind the investigation 3:03

Auch said she started getting feedback from members of the Canadian team as soon as she took on her new role last February.

"This is not a personal thing, it's entirely professional. And as my role of CEO, we have our values. I have to make sure every member follows those values. As far as that's concerned, I hope I'm doing a service to members of this organization and those who follow.

"This is a pretty serious thing," Auch said. "We needed to gather enough information."

Message for Canadian athletes

Auch admits the timing of the decision to place Crowe on leave, less than a month from the Olympics, was not ideal.

"I spoke to the athletes when we told them about Mike being put on leave and I reiterated my confidence in them and their ability to focus. They are really well prepared," Auch said.

She said Crowe had more of an overarching program role, and that the skaters have their individual coaches to help in the lead-up to and during the Olympics.

Speed Skating Canada CEO Susan Auch says the organization forced Crowe to leave his position on Jan. 9, just a month before the Winter Olympics after a number of athletes and coaches came forward. (The Canadian Press)

"There is no team that relies on one person for success. We have fantastic leadership within our organization," Auch said. "Our athletes are amazing. They have their coaches there."

Canada's 19-member long-track speed skating team is made up of 10 men and nine women. The program has won more medals than any other Canadian program at the Olympics.

Former U.S. athletes speak out

On Friday, a former U.S. speed skater told CBC News that she too reported allegations to Speed Skating Canada in November using the organization's 1-800 "Respect In Sport" hotline. Eva Rodansky alleges Crowe had sexual relationships with several of his athletes when he coached elite skaters south of the border in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Eva Rodansky alleges Crowe had sexual relationships with several of his athletes when he coached elite skaters south of the border in the 1990s and early 2000s. (Getty Images)

A second U.S. speed skater also 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.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Chantal Cermak told CBC News she had a two-year consensual relationship with Crowe when he was her coach.

CBC News could not independently verify their claims.