Gymnastics bodies never told of allegations against Ottawa coach

Neither Gymnastics Canada nor Gymnastics Ontario were made aware of previous allegations against an Ottawa coach now charged with sexual assault and child luring in a separate case, the governing bodies say.

No charges laid against Scott McFarlane in 2013 after Tumblers gymnast, 12, went to Ottawa police

Scott McFarlane taught gymnastics across Canada for about 13 years. He's now charged with sexually assaulting a girl, now 15, while he was a coach at a Mississauga, Ont., gym. (Facebook)

Neither Gymnastics Canada nor Gymnastics Ontario were made aware of previous allegations against an Ottawa coach now charged with sexual assault and child luring in a separate case, the governing bodies say.

Scott McFarlane, 28, appeared in court on Monday on five charges involving a young gymnast in Mississauga, Ont., where he coached from 2013 to 2017.

The girl, now 15, complained to Peel Regional Police last month about incidents alleged to have occurred over a four-year period while McFarlane worked at the gym.

Unbeknownst to either the owner of the gym, or to the sport's national and Ontario governing bodies, another young gymnast had accused McFarlane of inappropriate behaviour nearly five years earlier, when he coached at Tumblers Gymnastics Centre in Orléans.

In a statement from Tumblers late Thursday, the gym said the parents of a 12-year-old gymnast went to Ottawa police with complaints of an inappropriate relationship in April 2013.

The gym said police investigated but did not lay any charges. Ottawa police would not comment.

Tumblers Gymnastics Centre is located in the east Ottawa suburb of Orléans. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Inappropriate messages

McFarlane, who worked at Tumblers from 2005 to 2013, had sent the girl several inappropriate messages including shirtless photos of himself, according to former employees. He was fired about a week after the allegations were made.

Within a week of his firing, McFarlane was hired at Manjak's Gymnastics, an elite training facility in Mississauga.

He would go on to coach gymnastics for another four years in Ontario, B.C., Saskatchewan and Quebec. McFarlane is now suspended indefinitely from coaching across Canada.

Tumblers has previously said it contacted all "appropriate authorities" after the 2013 allegations were made.

However, Gymnastics Ontario CEO Dave Sandford said his organization was "never made aware" of allegations against McFarlane during his time coaching in Ottawa.

Zero tolerance

And while Gymnastics Canada has a "zero-tolerance policy" for behaviour that puts the safety of athletes at risk, the organization was not informed of the 2013 allegations because Tumblers deemed the reasons behind the firing a "human resources matter," according to Gymnastics Canada spokersperson Julie Forget.

Generally, the national organization only learns of firings involving criminal acts, Forget added.
Mississauga gym owner Kelly Manjak hired Scott McFarlane in 2013 soon after McFarlane was fired from his Ottawa job for an alleged inappropriate online relationship with a 12-year-old girl. (CBC)

Karl Balisch, general manager of Tumblers at the time of McFarlane's firing, is now a member of the executive at Gymnastics Canada.

Balisch refused to comment because he no longer works at Tumblers, Forget said.

Kelly Manjak, owner of Manjak's gym, told CBC News he had no knowledge of McFarlane's past allegations when he hired him in the spring of 2013.

'We moved on pretty fast'

Manjak said he was alerted to the firing months after hiring McFarlane, but was told the coach was dismissed over a "social media" issue.

"We moved on pretty fast from [McFarlane's record in Ottawa], actually. He was doing a great job and we didn't feel like he was doing anything wrong at that time," Manjak said earlier this week.

However Tumblers said Thursday the gym "explained the reason" behind McFarlane's firing to Manjak, and advised the Mississauga gym later in 2013 about ongoing concerns that McFarlane had continued to contact young gymnasts in Ottawa.

Tumblers said it sent a letter to McFarlane asking him to cease any further communications with its athletes, but has had no contact with the coach since 2014.

Earlier this week Tumblers reached out to parents and gymnasts to encourage them to come forward to Peel police to aid the investigation, according to a statement. The gym also said it has made counselling available to anyone who needs it.

McFarlane has been released on bail and his next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 28 in Brampton, Ont.