U of O men's hockey players had sex while others watched, university claims

At least three University of Ottawa men's hockey players had sex with a woman in Thunder Bay, Ont., while some other team members "in various states of undress" and drunkenness watched, heard it or sometimes took part, the university claims in a statement of defence filed in court.

University is defending class-action lawsuit alleging it damaged reputations of some players

The 2013-14 University of Ottawa men's hockey program was suspended. It is set to resume for the 2016-17 season. (The Canadian Press)

At least three University of Ottawa men's hockey players had sex with a woman in Thunder Bay, Ont., while some other team members "in various states of undress" and drunkenness heard it, watched or sometimes took part, the university claims in a statement of defence filed in court on Monday.

David Foucher, left, and Guillaume Donovan, right, are each facing a charge of sexual assault after an incident in Thunder Bay in February 2014. ( men's hockey roster)

The statement of defence also claims the 2013-14 team's then head coach, who first heard about the alleged incident the next morning, didn't tell the university about it for more than two weeks, until the woman's friend informed the school and the school confronted him.

The university's claims have not been tested in court.

The university is defending itself from a class-action lawsuit claiming that it damaged the reputations of other players on the team — including Andrew Creppin, the plaintiff in the $6-million lawsuit — by suspending the men's hockey program after allegations of sexual assault came to the attention of the university.

In its statement of defence, the university outlines how its legal counsel hired an independent investigator to gather information about what happened in a hotel room the night of Feb. 1-2, 2014, hours before the U of O team flew back to Ottawa after playing in a tournament against Lakehead University.

The university acknowledges in the court documents that six of the team's 26 players were not in Thunder Bay, and that five of the players who were there went to the hospital at some point during the night of the alleged sexual assault because one in the group drank too much alcohol.

Lawrence Greenspon, who is representing Creppin and his teammates in the lawsuit, said the university "clears half the team" in its statement of defence, nearly two years after the allegations surfaced.

"This is something that should have taken place long ago," Greenspon told CBC News.

Greenspon's reply to the statement of defence, which is to be filed in court Wednesday, denied the "murky and salacious allegations unsupported by particulars," and accused the university of re-smearing the reputation of players.

Sex with 1 partner consensual

The university's statement of defence suggests that 10 of the 26 players on the team agreed to be interviewed by the investigator, along with former head coach Réal Paiement, staff members and others. Thunder Bay police asked the investigator not to interview the alleged victim.

In May 2014, the investigator concluded that the woman had consensual sex with a rookie player on the team, but that he couldn't determine if intercourse with two other players was consensual, the statement of defence claims.

The investigator also concluded that other teammates were present in the room, watched the two players have sex with the woman and sometimes "played a role in the sexual activity or touched" the woman, the statement claim.

Other players in an adjoining room heard it through an open door.

"Most of the team members had consumed large or excessive amounts of alcohol on the night in question, to the point where they were either sent by ambulance to the local hospital emergency room [in the case of one man] ... or claimed to have no memory of the night's events on the next day," the statement reads.

2 players charged criminally

Guillaume Donovan and David Foucher were charged with one count each of sexual assault in March 2014. The charges against them have not been proven in court.

Paiement was suspended and later fired, and the university updated its sports guidelines, policies and training procedures.

The men's hockey program is scheduled to resume for the 2016-17 season.

The university argues the decisions it made were "fully within" its discretion and authority, and that the lawsuit against it "is an abuse of process and should be struck." The university also argues it's not obligated to run sports programs, and that participating in its programs is a privilege, not a right.

"The investigator's factual findings raised serious concerns about the conduct of many team members who apparently participated in, encouraged or witnessed allegedly non-consensual sexual activity, who drank to excess, who violated rules for student-athletes and the team, and who were comfortable in a culture where a possible sexual assault was not reported," the statement of defence reads.

"These concerns were not limited to the team members whom the police eventually charged with sexual assault. The investigation also raised legitimate concerns about the overall culture and operation of the men's varsity hockey program and the conduct of numerous team members."

But Greenspon argued in his reply to the statement of defence that the university's concerns about excessive drinking only came after it suspended the team.  He wrote that the university's directed "public discipline" at team members it knew were not involved in the allegations of sexual assault during a national press conference in March 2014.

"All members of the team were tarnished with the same label of having engaged in sexual misconduct," the reply said.

Read the full University of Ottawa statement of defence here.

Read the full reply to the statement of defence here.