3 women complained about the coach’s inappropriate behavior in April. He is now charged with sexual assault

Five months after three young female athletes filed charges for inappropriate behavior by their weightlifting coach, the same man has been charged with sexually assaulting another young person.

Isaac Smith, 33, was charged with sexual assault on September 28. These allegations have not been proven in court and CBC News was unable to reach Smith for comment.

The sexual assault allegedly took place between January 1 and June 24.

CBC News spoke to two of the three women who filed complaints on April 21 with Weightlifting Nova Scotia, the group that facilitates access to sport and organizes events in the province. The women allege their complaints were not taken seriously and claim that Smith should not have been allowed to continue coaching while the investigation was ongoing. They say they came forward to protect other women from further harm.

« What if he was suspended in April, just when our complaint was filed? » said Haley Warnica, one of the three original plaintiffs. “Would that have changed anything?

Isaac Smith, 33, has been charged with sexual assault. He had previously been suspended as a member of Weightlifting Nova Scotia. (Weightlifting Nova Scotia/Facebook)

In a statement, Weightlifting Nova Scotia said it hired an independent investigator the day after the complaint was received, but said the investigation was « significantly delayed » due to circumstances beyond its control, without providing further details. .

The investigator found at least 30 violations of Weightlifting Nova Scotia’s code of ethics, ranging from failing to promote self-esteem in athletes, to making unwelcome sexualized comments and shaming athletes.

Allegations of unwanted touching

Warnica, who trained with Smith for three years from the spring of 2017, and plaintiff Jane Nicholson, who trained with him for seven years from the summer of 2015, are now 26.

In the report and in interviews with CBC News, they said Smith quizzed them daily about their weight, monitored their social media posts, tried to control their diet, gave them the ‘silent treatment’ when they weren’t listening. not, touched them inappropriately. putting his hand on their legs or rubbing their backs and making unwelcome comments.

« He said in front of several people, ‘You know, you’re skinny, but at least you haven’t lost your ass,' » Warnica said.

« Let’s say if we were ‘crazy’ or something, he’d be like, ‘Oh, cool your boobs.’ And that’s obviously very disgusting in my opinion, » Nicholson said.

Nicholson, 26, is asking for more transparency about how Weightlifting Nova Scotia shares sanction information with its members. (Uncharted Media)

The investigator’s report states that the allegation was that Smith touched female athletes differently than male athletes, but the investigator found that there was no evidence that Smith touched female athletes in a sexual manner, nor in an inappropriate way.

Weightlifting Nova Scotia suspended Smith from all competitions, events, programs or initiatives for eight months. The suspension was retroactive to April 21, when the original complaint was filed, but because the sanction was not lifted until August 10, Smith was able to continue attending events after April 21. He also continued to coach because his private business is beyond his reach. Nova Scotia Weightlifting.

However, the organization said it received an additional complaint against Smith on June 28 and sent an email to its members the following day to inform athletes that it had « provisionally suspended Isaac Smith » under Article 32. of its code of conduct, which states that an « alleged incident is of such seriousness as to warrant the immediate suspension of an individual pending a final decision ».

The organization said it learned of the criminal charge against Smith on October 3.

His investigation into the June complaint has been delayed indefinitely due to ongoing criminal proceedings. This means Smith remains suspended.

Weightlifting Nova Scotia Suspension

In addition, the provincial organization notified Weightlifting Canada of the criminal charge and imposed a national provisional suspension, pending the outcome of an investigation.

« How many times does a person have to break a code of conduct to be permanently suspended? » Nicholson said of the initial eight-month sanction.

« In my mind, it’s a slap on the wrist compared to the years of trauma he’s caused us mentally. »

Notice of the initial investigation and sanction is posted on the Weightlifting Nova Scotia website. CBC News reviewed a more in-depth 13-page letter of findings, which was distributed to the complainants. Only Weightlifting Nova Scotia and the investigator have the full report, which the organization says is « private and confidential » and will not be shared with the public.

Weightlifting Nova Scotia has since updated its website to include a link at the top with the important message to members about the sanctions against Smith. (Weightlifting Nova Scotia)

The organization also placed two conditions on Smith’s return to the events following the initial investigation: first, that he provide a letter from a licensed mental health or human resources professional confirming that he had resolved the underlying issues that led to his conduct, and then provide a letter outlining the work he did to understand why and how his conduct violated the organization’s code of ethics.

The investigator noted that Smith showed remorse for his actions and stopped providing nutrition advice to athletes, instead referring them to a nutrition coach – listing those things as mitigating factors in his favour.

The report said the executive body of Weightlifting Nova Scotia « decided to give Mr. Smith the opportunity to learn from his mistakes and improve his behavior, » noting that the sanction was intended to reflect the finding of the investigator that Smith had « rehabilitation potential ». »

WATCH | Nova Scotia weightlifting coach survey:

Weightlifting trainer charged with sexual assault faced earlier complaints

Two Nova Scotia weightlifters say they raised red flags about a trainer who was accused of sexually assaulting another woman. Weightlifting Nova Scotia suspended the coach, but the women say he should have been fired sooner.

The organization declined to be interviewed, citing « confidentiality limits », but shared a statement and agreed to answer some questions in writing via email.

The information, shared on behalf of the all-volunteer executive of Weightlifting Nova Scotia by Jacob Glover, the former president and current vice-president of SafeSport & Culture, said the organization only has the power to discipline its members. It does not have the power to prevent coaches from continuing to train athletes in a private company. It does not regulate or certify coaches, but rather helps facilitate access to the National Coaching Certification Program, which is administered by the Coaching Association of Canada.

Women call for transparency and support

Warnica and Nicholson are calling for more transparency regarding how the organization shares sanctions information with its members.

« It’s buried on the website. It’s under, like, a second tab, at the very bottom, » Nicholson said. « There are so many of his athletes who have continued to go to his gym, unaware that we have all filed a report or filed complaints and that he broke the code of conduct. »

Weightlifting Nova Scotia has now updated its website to include a red bar at the top of the main page indicating « important information for our members ». It takes the visitor directly to the notice of sanction against Smith.

Warnica and Nicholson also say policies need to change, especially when it comes to offering support to athletes who complain of inappropriate behavior or who leave sport abruptly.

Warnica, 26, says she filed a lawsuit against her former coach because she wants policies to change so she can tell other young women that weightlifting is a safe sport. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

« There was a pattern of female athletes leaving Isaac’s gym, and very competitive, very good female athletes leaving. And [Nova Scotia Weightlifting] never did anything about it,” Warnica said.

The organization said it was taking steps to improve its response when it came to supporting athletes who quit without warning, but would not contact anyone involved in a complaint during an ongoing investigation to avoid any perception of bias.

Both women say they came forward because they wanted to continue competing, but no longer felt safe in the same environment as Smith. They also want to protect other women.

« I felt like we did our part by filing the lawsuit in April, » Warnica said. « But [Nova Scotia Weightlifting] didn’t do what they could. »

In its statement, the organization said it recognizes abuse in sport is a serious problem that requires a systemic and proactive response. He has a new board of directors, elected on October 5, and said he « will continue to devote a great deal of time and energy to meeting, listening and actively engaging with the weightlifting community to understand how prevent abuse like this in the future. »

He already has a new complaints and discipline policy in place that requires independent administration and adjudication of complaints, which means the executive will not decide on future sanctions itself, as it did in the initial complaint against Smith.


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