Former Canadian Olympic women’s gymnastics coach Dave Brubaker was found not guilty today of two sex assault charges levelled by a former athlete.
Justice Deborah Austin, in delivering her decision inside a Sarnia, Ont., courtroom on Wednesday, gave a scathing critique of how the lead officer handled the investigation.
The judge wondered about the « tainting of evidence » after explaining a scenario by which a police officer shared a written Brubaker apology with the complainant and others.
Austin also made it clear in her analysis that there were serious problems with the lead officer and complainant having a familiar relationship, and the fact it was disclosed late in the trial.
Gymnastics Canada launching internal probe
In a statement, Gymnastics Canada announced it would conduct an internal investigation in accordance with its Code of Ethics and Conduct and Discipline policies.
« Gymnastics Canada acknowledges, understands, and remains committed to our responsibility in creating and preserving gymnastics environments that ensure positive, healthy, and fulfilling experiences for all of our participants, » read the statement. « Together with our provincial and territorial partners and member clubs, we are continuing to implement a safe sport framework for gymnastics across the country.
« This framework includes tools to assist parents and other responsible adults to identify potentially unsafe situations and take proactive steps to ensure the safety of the athletes; providing confidential channels for athletes to communicate concerns with respect to their safety and well-being without risk of reprisals; and utilizing the appropriate enforcement mechanisms for addressing individuals who breach safe sport policies.
« We remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure that inappropriate and harmful conduct is dealt with immediately and effectively. Gymnastics Canada considers the safety and well-being of all participants as our top priority. »
Complainant initiated kisses, Brubaker said
In the case involving Brubaker, the national women’s coach at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, the complainant told the court that from the time she was 12, he would commonly greet her with a kiss on the lips.
Brubaker didn’t deny this.
« I think it was just out of habit … that she started to kiss me, » Brubaker said, insisting the kisses were innocent. « I don’t come from a kissy family, so to me it’s just part of the gymnast culture. It’s not something I need as a man. »
Brubaker told the court the complainant initiated the kisses after a competition in Europe.
Brubaker’s wife suspended
Last month, Gymnastics Canada suspended Liz Brubaker, who isn’t facing criminal charges, from her coaching job with the Bluewater Gymnastics Club in Sarnia.
In a statement, Gymnastics Canada said it suspended her after receiving « a number of written formal complaints… that outlined alleged violations of Gymnastics Canada’s ethics and code of conduct policies over an extended period of time a number of years ago. »
The complainant in her husband’s case is now in her 30s, and cannot be named under a publication ban. She also alleged Dave Brubaker touched her inappropriately while treating her for persistent pain and soreness.
Brubaker, the women’s national team director at last year’s world championships in Montreal, also vehemently denied this. But at the same time, an expert witness told the court that treatment, often in sensitive areas, is an integral and necessary part of maintaining the body of an elite gymnast.