Brassard resigns as chef de mission

The Canadian Press
Dan Ralph

TORONTO—Freestyle skiing champ Jean-Luc Brassard, who earlier this year criticized the Canadian Olympic Committee’s handling of alleged sexual harassment by former president Marcel Aubut, has stepped down as Canada’s chef de mission for the Summer Games in Rio.
Back in February, Brassard told Radio-Canada he would considering resigning over the Aubut scandal.
The COC said yesterday he was leaving for “business and personal reasons.”
“Since becoming chef de mission, my professional obligations and other responsibilities have made it very challenging for me to manage time-wise,” Brassard said in a statement.
“After much reflection, I have come to the difficult decision, and in the best interest of Team Canada, to step down as chef de mission,” he noted.
“I arrived at the conclusion that I could not help the athletes to the extent that I would like.”
The chef de mission is the team leader and spokesman for Canadian athletes at the Games.
Former cyclist Curt Harnett, a three-time Olympic medallist and four-time Olympian, succeeds Brassard after holding the same position with Canada’s Pan American Games team last summer.
Harnett said a big reason why he agreed to replace Brassard was his belief the COC has handled the Aubut scandal correctly.
“I can’t speak on behalf of Jean-Luc and I’m not going to sugar-coat it, it was a difficult time,” he told reporters.
“I believe it was, and continues to be, handled in a very professional manner.”
Brassard, 43, said he has full confidence in the Canadian team and called COC president Tricia Smith “a woman of integrity who has done tremendous work since she arrived at the COC.”
Smith called Brassard a “great Olympian.”
“He has also been a great supporter to me as we take a new direction at the COC and I thank him personally for that,” she added.
Smith succeeded Aubut after he stepped down in October. Several women accused Aubut of sexual comments and unwanted touching.
The 68-year-old lawyer hasn’t faced any criminal charges.
Harnett, meanwhile, said isn’t worried Brassard’s resignation will be a distraction for athletes.
“Their job is to concern themselves with their task at hand,” he said.
“This is their dream, these are their ambitions.”