Road To The Olympic Games

Canoe-Kayak

Canoe Kayak Canada reeling from internal strife: report

Internal conflicts, disorganization and a lack of leadership is plaguing one of Canada's most well-funded summer sports organizations, according to a Radio-Canada investigation.

0rganization a mess leading up to Rio, according to Radio Canada

Canadian kayaker Mark de Jonge says internal debates within Canoe Kayak Canada have bothered him leading up to Rio. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

By Nick Murray, CBC Sports

Something is rotten in the state of Canoe Kayak Canada, and it's not because Canada failed to earn a medal in the discipline for the first time in 24 years.

According to an investigation Saturday by Radio-Canada's Martin Leclerc, internal conflicts, disorganization and a lack of leadership is plaguing one of Canada's most well-funded summer sports organizations.

Leclerc reports that the leadership issues begins with Canoe Kayak Canada high-performance coach Scott Logan. Citing sources, Leclerc says team veterans — including four-time Olympic medallist Adam van Koeverden — went to Canoe Kayak Canada's higher-ups, demanding Logan not be involved with the team in Rio.

The organization reportedly granted the request, and while Logan still flew to Rio, he did not interact with the athletes during the Games, according to the report.

Logan had tried to push van Koeverden into retirement over the past few years, according to the report. Van Koeverden, in turn, trained in Australia because of the chaos within Canoe Kayak Canada.

Van Koeverden wouldn't comment on the atmosphere within the organization when asked by a Radio-Canada reporter earlier this week.

Radio-Canada quoted Canoe Kayak senior coach Frédéric Jobin in the report, who said athletes complained because they felt Logan's presence would prevent them from achieving their maximum in Rio.

Jobin went on to say that the atmosphere within the organization right now is "anything but healthy."

"Something has to be done because it's not fun working in this atmosphere," Jobin told Radio-Canada. "This situation hasn't hindered my role in preparing the athletes. But I've used more energy with this because there was no cohesion within the team."

Logan spoke briefly with a Radio-Canada reporter Saturday, saying, "when you have to make all the hard decisions, there are a lot of people that aren't necessarily happy about that."

CBC Sports contacted Canoe Kayak Canada for a response to the allegations and further clarification. In a statement, a spokesperson said the organization began a high-performance review last fall.

"We are in the midst of implementing those recommendations to structure our High Performance Program in a positive way that will allow our athletes to be successful," the statement read. The spokesperson couldn't immediately elaborate on the nature of the recommendations.

Canoe Kayak Canada was one of the most well-funded programs leading up to Rio. It received more than $10 million from Own The Podium in the four years leading up to these Olympic Games.

Politics and useless staff

Jobin was at the centre of controversy leading up to the Games when he chose Hugues Fournel over Étienne Morneau to team up with Ryan Cochrane in the K-2 200 metres after Russia was banned from the event amid the doping scandal.

CBC Sports obtained documents in a Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada ruling after Morneau — who was fresh off a bronze-medal win with Cochrane at the World Cup back in June — and fellow kayaker Alexander Scott launched an appeal for the spot on the team.

According to the judgement, Canoe Kayak Canada was given a small window to pick a pair for the event, but that window tightened after the International Canoe Federation pushed up the timeline by a week to July 31, notifying Canoe Kayak Canada of the change over the August long weekend.

Jobin was then given full authority to name a team, and picked Fournel partly because he was Cochrane's partner at the 2015 world championships — the race which put Canada in line for the spot after Russia was banned and Sweden declined the spot.

But in his interview with Radio-Canada, Jobin said Logan disapproved of the decision, leaving Jobin feeling betrayed. This, even though Canoe Kayak Canada backed Jobin's decision in the appeal, submitting that he made his decision fairly and without bias.

Morneau also spoke with Radio-Canada, saying the athletes themselves are the ones suffering through all the turmoil.

"Ask any of the athletes. Nobody feels supported by [Canoe Kayak Canda]," Morneau, who's leaving the national program in October, told Radio-Canada.

"We don't feel like the personnel are there to support the athletes but to belittle them."

Radio-Canada also spoke to Mark de Jonge, who earned the team's best finish at Rio — a seventh-place result in the K-1 200m. He said the internal debates, like this, have bothered him.

Morneau added that the Canadian team is looked down upon by other countries at international events, illustrating at how Canada is the only team arriving in jeans and T-shirts at international events, while other nations were sporting their national colours.

"We're some 30 athletes and we're accompanied by about 15 staffers from the organization," Morneau told Radio-Canada. "Yet we're the ones who have to off-load the trailers and take care of the boats.

"On Sunday afternoons when the competitions end around 4 p.m., half of the staff is out sightseeing and eating at a restaurant. Again it's the athletes, who just competed, who have to pack everything up until 7 p.m."

Morneau went on to insinuate that Canoe Kayak Canada is spending money to send useless staff to events.

"The fitness coach always travels with the team even though nobody goes to the gym during a competition weekend," Morneau said. "There's also someone who comes with us to collect data about wind speeds along the shore. The English and the Germans, they laugh at us. They just place a buoy in the middle of the water to get that information."

Jobin told Radio-Canada that over the last 12 months leading up to the Olympics, training groups haven't had the benefit of coach present.

"On the female side, every athlete had to find their own coach. There are also some guys in the 1,000 metres who never got a coach at all," Jobin said.