Ottawa track coach Andy McInnis wins appeal in sexual harassment case
Arbitrator orders André Marin report removed from Athletics Canada website
Ottawa track and field coach Andy McInnis has a new shot at clearing his name after an arbitrator found a previous investigation into allegations of harassment and sexual harassment against him had serious flaws.
"Mr. McInnis was pleased that the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada decided the appeal in his favour," wrote Jason Beitchman, McInnis's lawyer, in an email to CBC.
"The matter has been returned before a new [Athletics Canada] commissioner for redetermination, and Mr. McInnis looks forward to an opportunity to respond in the appropriate forum and at the appropriate time."
In May 2019, former Ontario ombudsman André Marin recommended McInnis be expelled for life from Athletics Canada, the governing body for track and field in Canada, and removed from the Athletics Canada Hall of Fame. Athletics Canada's commissioner at the time, Frank Fowlie, accepted Marin's findings and recommendations.
McInnis, a former longtime coach with Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, filed his appeal in June.
His application led to a Dec. 17 ruling by Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada arbitrator David Bennett, who concluded the investigation prepared by Marin was flawed.
A statement from Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club president Nathalie Côté on Monday states a new investigation into McInnis has begun, but Athletics Canada did not confirm this was the case.
'Inflammatory' language in Marin's report
Bennett's review of Marin's findings identified several problems with his report into McInnis including the use of "inflammatory" and "highly editorial" language, as well as conflating accusations against McInnis with former Lions Club chair Ken Porter, who is accused of sexual interference with underage boys.
The language in Marin's report is "highly prejudicial and serves no purpose but to convince the reader of Mr. McInnis' guilt," Bennett wrote.
"Investigator Marin's bias was such that he completely ignores possibly exculpatory facts and statements."
The arbitrator called on Athletics Canada to review allegations against McInnis in accordance with its own policies, and ordered a new commissioner to handle the case. The arbitrator also ordered both Marin's report and Fowlie's decision be removed from Athletics Canada's website.
Athletics Canada CEO David Bedford said it's now up to the organization's commissioner's office to review the allegations against McInnis.
"This is a confidential process, and independent of Athletics Canada. As such, until such time as this review has been completed, there is nothing more that Athletics Canada can offer in terms of information," Bedford said.
McInnis on leave since 2018
McInnis has been on leave from Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, where he was once both a coach and executive director, since September 2018. He was fired in May.
Marin detailed a number of allegations against McInnis in his report, including:
- A female athlete who alleged McInnis massaged her inappropriately and forced her to wear revealing bikini bottoms while running.
- Another female athlete who alleged he referred to her as a "yummy mummy" and a "MILF."
- That he took female athletes to a strip club.
None of the allegations against McInnis has been proven in court, nor is CBC aware of any criminal charges against him.
McInnis has denied giving an inappropriate massage and forcing an athlete to wear bikini bottoms, according to Bennett's summary.
Ottawa Lions president Nathalie Côté is encouraging any athletes with outstanding complaints to reach out to Athletics Canada's commissioner's office.
"Our priority is ensuring a safe sport environment within our club and our sport. This includes making sure that complainants have their voices heard," she said.
McInnis has been a track coach since the 1970s. In 1996 he coached the Canadian men's relay team to Olympic gold in Atlanta. He retired in May 2019, two days before Marin's report came out.