In 2001, then Olympic hopeful Megan Brown was shattering running records and making her mark in the sport of athletics — all while in high school. Her star was rising fast, just like Penny Oleksiak’s swimming career years later, while she too was still in high school.
That same year, Megan was recruited by Dave Scott-Thomas, head coach of the track and field and cross country teams at the University of Guelph. At the time and until his firing in late 2019, he was regarded as one of the most powerful figures in the Canadian running community.
Little did Megan know the trauma that she would experience over the following years, ultimately bringing her promising career to an untimely end. She would never even get the chance to grace the Olympic podium — an opportunity well within her grasp that she rightfully deserved.
The Globe and Mail published the details of Megan’s story last month.
Scott-Thomas met Megan in 2001; he was 38 and she was 16. She asserts that he began grooming her for a sexual relationship after she turned 17. The University of Guelph and Athletics Canada were made aware of Scott-Thomas’s misconduct on September 21, 2006, by Megan’s father. He was not fired until December 16, 2019 — over 13 years later. He was reportedly fired after another student-athlete made a complaint in fall 2019.
Megan’s father also spoke with their MP, Michael Chong, who was the Minister of Sport at the time. He never heard from him again, but Joanne Mortimore reached out, the CEO of Athletics Canada at the time. Rather than offering support, Ms. Mortimore was furious that Megan’s father had gone over her head in contacting Minister Chong.
Megan Brown was failed by the authorities who were in place to protect her: the university, the sports governing body, and the federal Minister of Sport.
Megan was a promising athlete, claiming championship titles at multiple levels — provincial, national, and collegiate. She was poised to become one of Canada’s next best runners. But one person with substantial influence was standing in her way: Scott-Thomas.
Despite awareness of the allegations, Athletics Canada continued to appoint Scott-Thomas as a coach for national teams, including for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. Without being fired by the University of Guelph and if Megan had not bravely come forward to tell her story, he would likely be heading to Tokyo this summer. So the question remains: why did it take the university and Athletics Canada so long to act? The answer: because he was a good coach. In fact, he was one of the best. He had turned Guelph into Canada’s running capital, with his university women’s and men’s teams winning a respective 12 and eight consecutive titles.
Neither the university nor the national sport organization removed Scott-Thomas from his position of authority as a coach.
The desire of both parties to continue winning outweighed their pledge to safety in sports.
The ‘win at all costs’ mentality was taken to such extremes that an athlete’s burgeoning career was ruined and her mental health irrevocably impacted.
Athletics Canada released a statement the same day The Globe and Mail story was published, reading in part:
“Athletics Canada acknowledges the deeply disturbing allegations in today’s Globe and Mail story concerning former athlete Megan Brown and her ex-coach Dave Scott-Thomas.”
There was no apology to Megan or even an air of humanity in the response. It was a carefully crafted statement meant to minimize potential liabilities.
By issuing the statement, the organization demonstrated its singular self-interest, without regard for the athletes it alleges to support while navigating to the Olympic podium.
Canadian Olympian and middle-distance runner Gabriela DeBues-Stafford said it best in a tweet following the publication of the statement: