COC president Marcel Aubut resigns after harassment complaint withdrawn

Marcel Aubut has confirmed he is stepping down as president of the Canadian Olympic Committee in light of harassment allegations. Tricia Smith, a Vancouver lawyer and former rowing Olympian, will serve as interim president.

Committee's workplace investigation had expanded after 3 women made harassment allegations

Canadian Olympic chief resigns after sex harassment allegations

8 years ago
Duration 2:16
Marcel Aubut steps down as president of the Canadian Olympic Committee

Marcel Aubut has announced his resignation as president of the Canadian Olympic Committee in light of harassment allegations.

"I announce today that I am stepping down as president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, to which I have devoted the past 10 years of my life and championed with all of my energy," he wrote in a statement.

I announce today that I am stepping down as president of the COC.- Marcel Aubut

Aubut had temporarily stepped aside from his duties amid a workplace investigation into complaints of sexual harassment.

Following Aubut's morning announcement, the COC announced that Tricia Smith, a four-time Olympian in rowing, and a lawyer and businesswoman, will serve as the interim president.

"I live the values embodied in sport and take very seriously my role in helping spearhead change for the betterment of the Olympic movement in this country," said Vancouver-based Smith, a unanimous choice. "Along with my board, our priority is to institute changes to ensure a safe environment for our athletes, coaches, staff, volunteers  and all those in the Olympic family.  I am personally committed to making that family safer and healthier." 

Marcel Aubut has resigned as head of the Canadian Olympic Committee amid a workplace investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press )

Aubut said his decision to step away was due to the allegations being a major distraction.

"It now jeopardizes the organization's smooth operations and may have repercussions that ultimately affect Canadian Olympic athletes who are the COC's raison d'être and who have always been the focus of my concerns and my volunteer involvement in the Olympic world," he said.

Aubut took the opportunity to apologize to those who may have been offended by his behaviour.

"I realize that my attitude could at times be perceived as questionable by some women and could have caused them to feel uncomfortable. I acknowledge this and will adjust my behaviour accordingly," he wrote.

Harassment complaint withdrawn

The COC also released a statement noting the formal complaint filed by a female colleague has been withdrawn.

The COC had retained François Rolland, former chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court, to launch an independent investigation after receiving a formal complaint against Aubut on Sept. 25. The investigation was expanded on Friday after two other women came forward with allegations.

The COC says Rolland's investigation has ceased but an independent third party process will continue based on other complaints. 

​A source close to the complainant tells CBC while she withdrew her formal complaint, she will be taking part in the third party investigation.

"The COC has clear policies that include measures to address harassment of any kind in the workplace," the statement said.

"Having a workplace environment that is healthy and safe for all of our employees and those attached to the Olympic movement is critical to our organization, and we will examine every possible way to improve those processes."

Smith, based captured a silver medal at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games in rowing. She also won seven world championship medals as well as a gold medal at the 1986 Commonwealth Games.

She's also vice-president of FISA, the International Rowing Federation and a member of the board of the International Court of Arbitration for Sport.

In March 2009, Smith was elected as one of two COC vice-presidents.

With files from CBC's Adrienne Arsenault