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Kaillie Humphries sues Bobsleigh Canada, prepares to compete for U.S.

Two-time Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries says it’s become clear Bobsleigh Canada no longer wants her on the team and has asked to be released, so she can compete for the U.S. This comes more than a year after Humphries filed a harassment complaint with the national sport organization

2-time Olympic champion says 'it was a very hard decision'

Bobsledder Kaillie Humphries filed a harassment complaint with Bobsleigh Canada more than a year ago. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

One of Canada's most decorated Olympians is in the final stages of leaving Team Canada to compete for the United States.

Kaillie Humphries says it's become clear Bobsleigh Canada no longer wants her competing for the team and has asked to be released. This comes more than a year after Humphries filed a harassment complaint with the national sport organization.

However, the 34-year-old from Calgary claims she's been waiting to be released from Bobsleigh Canada for weeks, so that she can begin training for the U.S. Team — and she can't wait any longer.

"I want to say 'thank you' to Canada, who has been a huge support. It's really hard. It's hard. This has been my life," Humphries told CBC Sports.

"This has been a 15-year career. It's been everything I've dreamed of since I was a kid. To know that a country has supported me so strongly and the people in the country have been so great — that I have to either consider being forcefully retired and having somebody else dictate what happens to my career."

WATCH | Canadian Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries to race for United States

Humphries is suing Bobsleigh Canada to be released, claiming that she was in "an environment that is unsafe." 2:54

Humphries is suing the national governing body for blocking her release from the team and breaching their contract relating to athlete and coach code of conduct.

Last August, Humphries filed a harassment complaint with Bobsleigh Canada, telling CBC in January she was in "a position where my workplace environment was impaired and I couldn't compete."

Humphries has been waiting for more than a year for the national sport organization to complete its internal investigation.

'I have done everything I can but cannot return to a work environment that I do not believe is safe,' Humphries said. (Wong Maye-E/The Associated Press)

On Friday, Humphries released a statement affirming her decision.

"I can confirm that I am seeking a full release from Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton. Last August, I filed a harassment complaint with Bobsleigh Canada. I was in a position where my workplace environment was impaired and I couldn't compete," Humphries said. 

"It has been over a year and they have not completed their internal investigation. I have done everything I can but cannot return to a work environment that I do not believe is safe."

"I want to be clear that I am not choosing to leave Canada. I love this country!" the statement went on. "This has been the most difficult ordeal of my life and I want Canada to know that competing for you, and winning for you at the Olympics, will always be the highlight of my career."

Bobsleigh Canada told CBC News on Thursday night the investigation is still ongoing.

In a statement to CBC News, Bobsleigh Canada said it abides by its harassment and discrimination policy that has been in place since 2006.

The organization said it would not comment on Humphries' specific case, citing the privacy provisions of that policy, until the investigation is complete. 

WATCH | Kaillie Humphries, Heather Moyse slide to gold medal at Sochi Olympics

The Canadian duo won their second straight title in 2014. 1:10

Humphries now says she'd rather compete for the U.S. She is marrying American Travis Armbruster, a former brakeman on the U.S. boblseigh team, on Saturday. 

"Being put into an environment that is unsafe. It's not okay, let alone I'm going to be punished just for stating that those facts are existing to me," Humphries said. 

"It was a very hard decision, it still is a very hard decision to get to this point. At the end of the day, I have to be who I am, I have to be strong."

Humphries says once she secures her release from Team Canada, she will begin her process to become eligible to compete for the United States.

AthletesCAN, an association of Canada's national team athletes, said it was "saddened" by Humphries's decision, but supported the two-time Olympic champion.

"Losing one of Canada's most successful and recognizable Olympic athletes due to flawed process, a lack of progress, and a lack of action is devastating to say the least," the group said in a statement. 

"However, nothing is more important than Kaillie's health and safety, and whether it is in Canada or elsewhere, Kaillie has a right to participate in a sport environment she feels protected in." 

International Olympic Committee (IOC) requirements dictate that an athlete changing countries "may participate in the Olympic Games to represent his new country provided that at least three years have passed since the competitor last represented [their] former country."

She plans to attend a U.S. bobsleigh training camp in Lake Placid as a guest next week.  

The USA bobsled skeleton organization said it would welcome Humphries should she meet certain standards.

"Our philosophy has been consistent in that we are very inclusive when it comes to our athletes. If an athlete meets our eligibility requirements and wants to represent the USA in bobsled or skeleton, we'll give them a shot." 

"Kaillie is a great athlete and if she gets released from Canada and earns her way into the US team, we'll gladly treat her like any other USABS athlete."

Humphries is a two-time Olympic champion and was named the 2014 Lou Marsh Award winner as the top athlete in Canada. She and brakeman Heather Moyse are the only female bobsleigh athletes to win back-to-back gold medals.

About the Author

Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.