Gatineau gymnastics coach should get 30-day suspension, committee finds

Dave Fallon, a high-performance coach who led Quebec's gymnastics team at the 2023 Canada Games, should be suspended for multiple incidents of inappropriate behaviour, a committee tasked with investigating his conduct says.

Dave Fallon’s coaching methods questioned by former athletes, parents

A man in a white jacket stands in an arena during a gymnastics competition.
More than 15 athletes, coaches and parents shared allegations with Radio-Canada about unacceptable conduct by Dave Fallon, a gymnastics coach in Gatineau, Que. (Gabrielle Drumond/Radio-Canada)

A high-performance gymnastics coach at a Gatineau, Que., sport club should receive a 30-day suspension for inappropriate behaviour, a committee tasked with investigating his conduct says.

The Integrity Protection Committee (IPC) at Quebec non-profit Sport'Aide found Dave Fallon had engaged in "inappropriate" behaviour at work since Unigym Gatineau's inception in 2012.

In March 2023, Radio-Canada reported that several former coworkers, athletes and parents had denounced Fallon's methods and the environment he fostered at the club.

A formal complaint was filed last fall with the Quebec Complaints Officer, who handles accusations of abuse, harassment, negligence or violence.

Fallon, who has coached gymnastics for more than 25 years, has held various positions on the national circuit, including leading Quebec's gymnastics team at the 2023 Canada Games.

The IPC's report, obtained by Radio-Canada, raised five areas of concern about his behaviour.

Report describes 'psychological violence'

The report said Fallon denigrated his athletes and subjected them to psychological violence on "countless" occasions while doing his job.

"The evidence demonstrates countless situations where the respondent [Fallon] made disparaging — even violent — comments with regard to several of his athletes," the document said in French. (All further quotations from the report are translated from the original French.)

It also described Fallon shouting loudly as part of his duties at the gym — something that constituted "psychological violence."

"A trainer is normally located a short distance from his athletes when he trains them," the report said. "It appears to the committee to be unnecessary for the respondent to have to shout so frequently to be heard."

A close-up view of hands on rings during a gymnastics competition.
A committee investigating the conduct of Unigym Gatineau coach Dave Fallon found he denigrated his athletes and subjected them to psychological violence on several occasions in the course of doing his job. (Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

The report also set out situations where Fallon pulled the hair of his athletes. Radio-Canada previously reported similar testimony in March from gymnast Michaela Stevenson.

"The committee is of the opinion that this is not an appropriate or adequate technique [and] that it compromises the safety of the athletes," it said.

Fallon is also under scrutiny for forcing athletes to repeat exercises even though they were reluctant to do so, according to the report, and for failing to help them when required, according to the report.

The IPC said he did not assist an athlete when she broke her foot last fall.

The report did find Fallon used adequate protective equipment during training, however, and properly followed basic safety rules and concussion management protocols.

Will return in early June

The committee recommended suspending Fallon from his coaching duties for 30 days, but did not specify whether that should be with or without pay.

It also recommended tagging Fallon's file with a disclaimer and mandating he participate in a Sport'Aide awareness workshop and other training courses.

In its report, the IPC said it takes into account the large number of victims, their ages, the seriousness of the breaches in conduct and what it called the coach's "lack of introspection" regarding the harms he caused.

Fallon did not respond to interview requests from Radio-Canada.

In a Tuesday news release, Unigym Gatineau and Gymnastics Quebec announced the coach would return on June 11 in compliance with the IPC recommendations.

Both organizations declined to comment further, citing confidentiality.

They did say, however, that they each were committed to "ensuring a safe and inclusive training and competition environment, free from all forms of abuse, harassment and discrimination."

With files from Radio-Canada's Jonathan Jobin and Laurie Trudel