February 13, 2019 / 5:56 PM / 4 days ago

Gymnastics Canada launches probe after former coach acquitted in sex assault trial

TORONTO (Reuters) - Gymnastics Canada said on Wednesday it will proceed with an internal investigation after a former national team coach was found not guilty of sexual assault and sexual exploitation.

FILE PHOTO: Jeremy Chartier, Gymnastics, carries the national flag of Canada during the flag parade of the Opening Ceremony of The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday 6th October 2018. Jonathan Nackstrand for OIS/IOC/Handout via REUTERS

David Brubaker, who coached the Canadian team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, had pled not guilty to charges leveled by a former student relating to alleged incidents between 2000 and 2007, when the complainant was between the ages of 12 and 20.

Gymnastics Canada, the national governing body for the sport, said it remains committed to its responsibility in creating and preserving an environment that ensures positive, healthy, and fulfilling experiences for all participants.

The governing body also said an internal investigation will be conducted in accordance with its code of ethics and conduct and discipline policies.

“We remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure that inappropriate and harmful conduct is dealt with immediately and effectively,” Gymnastics Canada said in a statement.

“Gymnastics Canada considers the safety and well-being of all participants as our top priority.”

Brubaker, who lost his standing as a national coach since his arrest in December 2017, was found not guilty in a Sarnia, Ontario, courtroom on Wednesday by a judge who questioned the conduct of the investigating police officer, who is reportedly a cousin of the complainant and was in her wedding party.

The decision comes about a year after former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 300 years in prison in two different trials after hundreds of women testified about abuse at his hands, including Olympic champions Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber.

Brubaker’s defense lawyer Patrick Ducharme, who had argued during the case that the complainant felt betrayed about not making the Olympic team, was not concerned about what an investigation by Gymnastics Canada may turn up.

“They are just probably trying to protect themselves from liability for having fired a person improperly and for no legitimate grounds,” Ducharme told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“And so they are going to do their own probe, they’ll come to the conclusion they want because it will support their position and they think that will cover them, or protect them, from civil liability but I don’t believe it will.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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