Track and Field

Athletics Canada hands lifetime ban to former sprinter Desai Williams

One-time Canadian sprinter Desai Williams was handed a lifetime ban by Athletics Canada on Wednesday following an investigation into a complaint by an adult athlete against the former coach.

Probe finds 1984 Olympic bronze medallist violated sexual harassment policy while a coach in 2010

Athletics Canada on Wednesday handed former sprinter Desai Williams, pictured in 1988, a lifetime ban for violating the organization's sexual harassment policy while a coach in 2010. (Scott Grant/Canadian Olympic Committee/Canadian Press/File)

Former Canadian Olympic sprinter Desai Williams has been handed a lifetime ban by Athletics Canada for violating the organization's sexual harassment policy.

Athletics Canada is the governing body for track and field in the country. The alleged conduct took place in 2010.

According to an Athletics Canada news release, a former adult athlete brought the complaint against Williams, their former coach, prompting an investigation that began March 5, 2018. Athletics Canada chief executive officer Rob Guy told ​CBC Sports that the initial allegation against Williams was made in January. 

Williams was under contract with the organization as a sprint coach at the time. 

An independent investigator discovered Williams engaged in behaviour that violated the organization's policy "by abusing the power imbalance inherent in his coaching position," rule 129.02 a) and b) which states:

Harassment may:

a) Happen between an individual against another individual, either at the same hierarchical level or between individuals with different hierarchical levels and/or different contractual status;

b) Take the form bullying, characterized by the underlying perception of an imbalance of power, and by the repeated or habitual use of force; physical and/or emotional aggression or coercion to intimidate or dominate others.

Williams is barred from participation in any role or attendance at any competition or activity that is organized, convened, held or sanctioned by Athletics Canada or by a member of Athletics Canada, including any affiliated club or association.

"I spoke to him [Williams] probably about a week to 10 days ago when the investigation was going on because I wanted to make sure that he was provided an opportunity to say what he needed to say," Guy said of the investigation.

Guy also said about four athletes currently working with Williams were contacted Wednesday prior to the announcement of his ban.

"They were advised [Wednesday] prior to the release of the situation and the ban of him from coaching, so they'll obviously be needing to find another coach," Guy said. 

In the news release, Athletics Canada noted its top priority is "creating and maintaining a healthy, safe and secure sporting environment for its athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and employees. Harassment of any kind is incompatible with that environment and strictly prohibited."

Williams, 59, competed for Canada in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics. He won a bronze medal in 1984 in Los Angeles as a member of Canada's 4x100-metre relay team.

He also competed in the 100 metres, including the final of the 1988 Olympics in which teammate Ben Johnson won gold before being subsequently stripped of the medal after he was found to have used performance-enhancing drugs (PED).

Williams later admitted he also had used PEDs.

Williams was fired as a coach by Athletics Canada in 2015. Prior to working with Athletics Canada, he served as a strength and conditioning coach for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts.