Calgary

Alberta Water Polo cancels girls' season during investigation but teen accused of sex assaults still playing

Alberta Water Polo Association cancelled the rest of the U14 girls' season just hours after a CBC News story was published about girls reporting their breasts were being groped by another player during games. But the player accused of sexual assault is still playing, according to players' parents.

Provincial association and police investigating groping complaints

The Alberta Water Polo Association cancelled the rest of the U14 girls' season after a CBC News report about allegations of sexual assault during games. (Facebook/Alberta Water Polo Association)

The Alberta Water Polo Association cancelled the rest of the U14 girls' season just hours after a CBC News story was published about girls reporting their breasts were being groped by another player during games.

But the teen accused of sexual assault also plays in another league, this one under the Water Polo Canada jurisdiction, and continues to be in the pool throughout the weekend and beyond, according to players' parents.

"Alberta Water Polo now is victimizing the victims," said the mother of one of the players who reported the alleged assaults to police.

Since November, at least three girls around the age of 13-years-old have made formal complaints to police, the association or both. A memo sent out to membership in January suggested "wearing tight suits" would help prevent the groping.

Some parents of the complainants were outraged at the suggestion a tighter bathing suit would prevent what they feel are repeated sexual assaults.

On Friday evening, the AWPA said it had made "the very difficult decision" to cancel the entire season.

The organization said it "worked diligently to find a path to finish out the winter league season, but based on recent events and subsequent concerns about the safety of players, spectators, coaches, referees and parents this is not possible."

CBC News is not naming any of the players or their teams in order to protect the identities of the underage people involved and because there is an active sexual assault investigation underway. One teen who spoke with CBC News about her experiences will be called Tess.

The teens say a player in another jurisdiction has been reaching into their bathing suits and grabbing at their breasts, in one case leaving bruises for two weeks.

'Victimizing the victims'

Tess filed a police complaint following a game in February. Her mother said Tess came home from the pool Friday night in tears after learning her season had been shut down.

"I now understand why so few victims of assault come forward," said Tess's mother.

"Alberta Water Polo could have suspended the player or team in question. Instead, they cancelled the season, including provincials next week. Water Polo girls across the province have worked all season for this."

The family of that player has expressed frustration at what they feel is a lack of action on the part of AWPA. 

In a statement provided to CBC News, AWPA said it had engaged a third-party independent sports investigator in February to investigate each of the allegations.

"We encourage anyone who has experienced similar in-game conduct to file a complaint with our organization to address," the statement reads. "Going forward, we will be reviewing our own internal procedures and best practices. Out of respect for the privacy of all involved, and due to the ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment further."

CBC News requested a comment from Water Polo Canada but was told the issue was outside its jurisdiction.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.