Misconduct allegations spur calls for universities to cut ties with running club

Some current and former athletes and academics are calling on Carleton University and the University of Ottawa to cut ties with the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, after news another former coach is being investigated for historical, sexual misconduct.

U of O, Carleton contracting out sports programs to Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club

Audrey Giles, a professor of human kinetics at the University of Ottawa, questions why the university continues to have a contract with the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club after new allegations of sexual misconduct involving one of its former coaches. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Some current and former athletes and academics are calling on Carleton University and the University of Ottawa to cut ties with the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, after news another former coach is being investigated for historical sexual misconduct.

Last month, CBC Ottawa reported on allegations against former Lions coach and Bell High School teacher Peter Des Brisay.

The allegations, which date back decades, come two years after two of the club's coaches, Ken Porter and Andy McInnis, were fired after investigations by Athletics Canada and banned from coaching for alleged sexual misconduct and harassment.

"I really question why the University of Ottawa continues to have a contract with the Lions. What is the threshold for ending a contract?" asked Audrey Giles, a professor of human kinetics at the university who's also a runner and coach.

The contractual arrangement, which goes back about 14 years, allows Lions coaches to facilitate track and field programs at the university. It includes perks like on-campus office space, and students on the varsity track and field team are required to pay a fee to the club.

Carleton University and the Lions, meanwhile, have had a contractual arrangement since 2013.

"I don't think most people are aware that the relationship is one of a contract," said Giles.

"Other universities have developed the resources within, whereas the University of Ottawa and Carleton have contracted them out." 

Ken Porter, left, and Andy McInnis, right, pose in an undated photo. In 2019, they were both fired following investigations by Athletics Canada. Porter has since been charged with historical sexual assault by police in Edmonton. (From André Marin's independent investigation)

Investigations, allegations

In 2020, Edmonton police laid historical sexual assault charges against Porter.

No criminal charges have been laid against McInnis or Des Brisay, although Des Brisay is suspended from teaching and coaching pending an investigation by the Ontario College of Teachers

Since CBC Ottawa's latest round of stories, three former University of Ottawa runners have come forward with their experiences.

They describe a toxic and abusive atmosphere under McInnis and also call for ties to be cut with the Lions. CBC has agreed not to name them due to the sensitive nature of their experiences.

Their stories sound familiar to Giles, who remains in contact with several former varsity runners. 

"[They describe] a lot of demeaning language. I would go so far as to call it emotional abuse. There was definitely a lot of fat shaming, a lot of sexualization of female athletes," said Giles, who also taught a course with Porter.

The former athletes say that when their coaches were fired in 2019, the University of Ottawa failed to support them. Giles said the university only acted months later, after she wrote to the administration to complain about its lack of oversight.

"They basically [told current athletes] that if they needed help, they could go to student counselling or to the team sports psychologist," said Giles. 

"That was totally insufficient because there were more than a decade of other student athletes who'd been victimized." 

Peter Des Brisay, right, embraces with Mary Jane Richards at one of their track meets. Richards told CBC Ottawa in June 2021 that she was groomed over the course of several years by Des Brisay and eventually gave up the sport. (Submitted)

Universities respond

Both Carleton and the University of Ottawa declined CBC's requests for an interview, issuing statements instead. 

The University of Ottawa said it was aware of the most recent allegations, adding it encourages student athletes to contact its human rights office if they have concerns.

Carleton said it provides "extensive ongoing training" for all of its athletes on issues related to sexual harassment and violence. 

The Lions' board of directors also posted a statement on its website, listing mental health services and websites available both to its athletes and the public.

"We are deeply saddened and concerned that a complaint of this nature has once again affected our community," said club president Jennifer Dumoulin.

"We are committed to continuing to work collaboratively with all our key partners, stakeholders and members to support a safe sport environment." 

Systemic problem 

Steve Boyd, a professional running coach from Kingston, Ont., said it's important for universities and clubs to acknowledge abuse, since other coaches have all too often turned a blind eye. 

Steve Boyd says it's important for institutions like universities and clubs to acknowledge abuse, since other coaches often look the other way. (Queen's University)

A former varsity coach at Queen's University, Boyd lost his job after speaking out about how the University of Guelph handled a case involving a coach there who was suspended for alleged sexual abuse.

"What's going to become of the people that saw things and said nothing or actively enabled people?" asked Boyd. "When are we going to have some accountability?" 

The federal government announced on July 6 that the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada will set up an independent "mechanism" to address issues of harassment, abuse and discrimination. 

While this new body will have jurisdiction over federally funded sports organizations, Boyd worried that universities, which are primarily funded provincially, could fall outside its purview. 

"They've kind of verbally committed to it in a very broad way," Boyd said. "It would be great to see that they would take the next step, recognize that [since] we're doing something federally, we need to do something provincially."


Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior reporter who works on investigations and enterprise news features at CBC Ottawa. She's also the host of the CBC investigative podcast, The Band Played On found at: You can reach her at