Curiosity Delivers.

(Leanne Young / The McGill Tribune)

Swim team members allege an unhealthy athletic atmosphere

McGill/News by

Four former swimmers on McGill’s Varsity Swim Team have come forward with reports of allegedly experiencing a ‘toxic’ environment on the team. The former athletes, who departed from the team between 2014 and 2018, claimed that they were treated unethically by one of their coaches, who they claim divulged their confidential personal information to other teammates and encouraged unsafe weight loss. They found McGill’s frameworks and policies for resolving complainants to be unwieldy.

 

Disclosures on athletics staff

The athletes claim that their coach created an unwelcoming environment that fostered unethical treatment and animosity among the swimmers. Jane*, who left the team after two years, alleges that she was specifically singled out for her performance in the pool and for her social life.

Jane says that her relationship with her coach became unhealthy. At one point, he instructed her to lose 25 pounds, put her on a regulated diet, and told her to record her food intake and provide him with a diary of it. Their interactions fostered unhealthy eating habits and poor self-esteem.

“He had me weighed once a week,” Jane said. “I lost a whole bunch of weight, but it wasn’t healthy, like I just stopped eating [….] He commented, ‘good job losing nine pounds this week,’ and it doesn’t take a medical doctor to realize that no one at my weight should lose nine pounds in a week.”

To Jane’s knowledge, at least three other swimmers she competed with developed eating disorders while swimming for McGill. This is reflective of research indicating that young adult athletes, especially female athletes, are at greater risk for developing eating disorders than non-athletes in the same age group.

According to Kate*, a former swimmer who quit the team after her second year, eating disorders have been a pervasive issue across all the teams she has been a part of, including McGill. She says that the coaches lacked sensitivity to the issue.

“[Eating disorders are] a sensitive subject, now more than ever, and people really need to be careful with what they say to young women,” Kate said.

Kate explained that simply putting players on diet plans is an inadequate way to improve their swimming.

“[When professional swimmers are put on diets], it’s not like [they] just [need] to lose weight, it was like you need more muscle in these areas,” Kate said. “But, like, if you look at someone and tell them, ‘you need to lose 20 pounds,’ that’s not going to make you a better swimmer.”

Coaching guides published by the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC) recommend that coaches handle eating disorders by helping them find professional help, assuring them that their role on the team is not in jeopardy, and doing so in a confidential manner. According to Jane, the coach did not respect the confidentiality of two of the three athletes with eating disorders.

“Swimming is a performance sport that requires significant fitness to be performed at the highest level,” the coach facing the allegations wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “To this end, I preach the value of fitness, not weight control. I have, on several occasions, had discussions with both men and women about making changes in lifestyle habits, [which] go well beyond eating, to help them achieve their goals in the pool. These conversations are always handled with great care and support and are always in private.”

But both Jane and Adrian* claim that, on other occasions, the coach divulged information about their personal and academic lives to the team.

“He told a first year that she shouldn’t associate herself with me because my GPA is really low and I failed a course,” Jane said. “His access to my transcript isn’t meant to be shared, especially when it’s used to attack my character.”  

Disseminating private information about athletes to their teammates violates the CAC’s Code of Conduct, which asserts that coaches must “maintain confidentiality and privacy of personal information and use it appropriately.” The Code also states that the authority of coaches is derived, in part, from upholding their responsibility to maintain confidentiality.

However, the coach claims to have never shared personal information about swimmers with their teammates.

“I have never shared personal or confidential information without an athlete’s prior consent,” the coach wrote. “When swimmers report that they can’t attend practice because of an illness, the team is informed, though no details regarding the illness are providedexcept when the illness could be contagious and thus could put teammates at risk of contracting it.”

 

Inadequate resolution channels

While grappling with these issues, the former swimmers lacked adequate channels for disclosing or reporting them. The only McGill staff member who oversees varsity coaches is Varsity Sports Manager, Lisen Moore. When athletes have issues that they feel they cannot take to their captains or coaches, she is the designated person to handles their concerns. However, the responsibility of oversight for every varsity sport leaves this position overburdened. Moreover, the process for reporting is untransparent to both athletes and the public.

Both Jane and Abigail* say they attempted to bring complaints about the coach to Moore but were placed at the bottom of a priority list and were unsure about how to properly file a complaint.

“[Moore…] didn’t ask any questions, didn’t follow up, didn’t validate feelings,” Abigail said. “She just did nothing, and [coaches are] not going to be punished.”

The Tribune reached out to Moore for comment on multiple occasions but did not hear back over the course of four months.

In comparison to McGill, University of Toronto (U of T) has a clear four-step appeals process for appealing any matter relating to a varsity sport, including a coach’s decisions about players and their disciplinary procedures, whereas McGill has none. U of T also has external confidential support and referral services for players for when the team cannot find solutions. Moreover, McGill lacks any sort of oversight body or board akin to what high-school-aged swim teams have, leaving athletes to suffer in silence. Many current and past swimmers who spoke with the Tribune asserted that it would be helpful to have an unbiased third-party to hear problems.

“At university, there’s no board,” Jane said. “The coach doesn’t have a boss, so it’s really, really hard to have [them] face consequences when there’s no one to talk to and there’s no one to go to about it.”

McGill lacks adequate mental health resources set aside specifically for student athletes. In comparison, the University of British Columbia (UBC) has an online mental health hub for varsity athletes, while U of T has one counsellor tasked with meeting with varsity student-athletes once per week.

“When I’ve talked with [other] sports psychologists [we talk about] how to [holistically] improve your performance,” Jane said. “The sports psychologist I saw at McGill never asked about any part of my life outside of how I could perform better in the pool.”

The McGill’s Guide to Varsity Sports for Student‐Athletes reflects a similar results-oriented rhetoric, stating that the varsity program is based on the “pursuit of academic and athletic excellence” and “establishing practices that foster positive learning and competitive environments for student-athletes.” Meanwhile, U of T’s guide to student-athlete services states that the university’s varsity program is devoted to “whole person development” and acknowledges that “students are at a crucial stage of their intellectual, physical and social development.”

For Kate, it wasn’t until she quit the team that she truly felt healthy and balanced in all areas of her life.

“The sad thing is that [the coach] will tell you time and time again [that] school comes first, family comes second, swimming comes third, but, in reality, that’s not the way it is,” Kate said. “I had no idea how bad it really was until I was like, ‘wow I’m getting As in school; I’m living my life; I’m going to bed on time; I’m seeing my friends; I’m a healthy person; I might not be working out every day of my life, but I feel healthy.’”

  • Pascale Drp

    Sad to see that this article only showed the opinion of 4 girls and didn’t take into account the rest of the team or the alumni…. I ‘m disappointed with this as I wrote to the author and at least 17 other swimmers or alumni did it also and none of our opinions are there (which are totally the opposite of those 4 girls). I swam for the McGill swimming team for 4 years (2012-2016). I think my opinion is valid too. Well,this is what I would call bad journalism or fake news.

  • Simone Cseplo

    As a graduate and retired swimmer of this program, it is very sad to see coverage like this. Not only are the allegations against the coaches of McGill Swimming false but they are also unfounded. I swam on the team for 5 years and was part of the leadership team and never experienced any of the accusations that are made. I was never told anyone’s personal problems such as eating disorders, mental health nor were GPA’s ever disclosed to me. This kind of information was always confidential and was only discussed between said swimmer and coach.

    This team was a family to me and a huge reason why I loved my time at McGill.

  • Valérie De Broux

    This is an extremely sad example of one-sided reporting. Please check your facts before writing such an article and include the valid opinion of other swimmers and alumni. I swam with the McGill Martlets for 5 years, the coaching staff was nothing but supportive.

  • Jason Niness

    As a former McGill Varsity swimmer, who was on the team for two years and still participates in events with the team, I would like to share my experience as a swimmer for McGill. When it comes to the team as a whole, I have never felt more at home with any group of people outside of my immediate family. The friendships and bonds I have formed with members of the team, past and present, have all been positive and long-lasting. When it comes to the coaching and support staff, I always felt cared for and heard. As someone who has battled with weight issues, especially in the context of sport, I never felt pressure from the coaching staff to change any of my eating habits. We had access to a nutritionist, sports psychologist, and McGill sports doctors who would all have been the first people we could see if an issue in this area arose. I do not wish to invalidate the feelings of these women or otherwise be insensitive, but rather share my own experience with the team in the hopes of showing that these feelings are not shared by all.

  • Ella Milloy

    As a current member on McGill Swimming, this is very sad to see. All of my experiences on the team thus far have been nothing but positive. The team and the coach have really shaped my time at university and it frustrates me to see such unsupported claims being broadcasted like this. It is also important to mention that 25+ past and current swimmers were also interviewed for this and are nowhere mentioned in the article.

  • Bella Pittinger

    I am appalled that such a high-achieving school would allow this incredibly biased and inaccurate article to be published. Reporter Audrey Carleton fails to quote the 30+ current and ex-swim team members who gave extensive interviews in complete defense of the coach’s conduct, which is terribly misrepresented in the article. I am deeply ashamed with the Tribune’s exploitative “journalism” tactics which have ultimately ignored the truth in order to gain attention, and hope the editor-in-chief understands the calamity of this unfortunate negligence.

  • Jenn Darling

    I have to echo the thoughts shared by my fellow swimmers below. During my time swimming as a Martlet from 2010-2014 I struggled with the balance that was required to juggle school, sport and a social life. I found the coaching staff to be supportive even if, at times, that support came as tough love. The swimming community and coaches were a second family to me and I owe a lot of my success to all of their support.

    Additionally, I think it is important to consider that swimming at a varsity level for the university is by no means a right. Athletes are expected to lead healthy lifestyles that will contribute to their success as an athlete and allow them to be contributing team member. Eating healthy, not partying too much and showing up to practices are all key elements of each team member’s success. It is unrealistic to assume that a coach will not interfere if they see an athlete going down a path that will not aid in their success… in sport but also in all aspects of life.

  • Meaghan Morter

    This is my second year as a Marlet and I can confidently say I have had nothing but positive experiences. I went through a rough time with anxiety and depression last year and the coaching staff was nothing but supportive. Once I was able to admit to myself I was having mental health problems, the first people I told (after my family) were the coaches. They continuously checked in on me to make sure I was still okay and they never told anyone else. It saddens me that I WAS interviewed for this in support of the coach and my voice was never heard. Going beyond the coaches, the support from the entire team is unmatched and I have never been apart of such an amazing group of people. I have gone through my share of ups and downs throughout my swimming career and I can confidently say I have never wanted to swim more in my life. The relationships I have formed with not only the coaches but the 40+ other swimmers will live with me forever… I mean, I got a quote from one of the coaches tattooed on my arm!

  • Nikki van Noord

    Coming from a second year female swimmer on this very team, this article is absurd and extremely disheartening. I can say without a doubt that the McGill Swim Team coaches are supportive and encouraging to all of their swimmers. An article like this does not accurately portray the relationships between the coaches and the swimmers. I can safely say that the support system on this team is unmatched, and to see that some people couldn’t share that same experience is disheartening, but it does not represent the team as a whole. It is obviously difficult to juggle university level education, 20hour/week varsity program, social life, work, and staying healthy. Living such a high-paced lifestyle is not easy, but the McGill swim coaches are dedicated to every single one of their athletes. They ensure that we graduate with more than just a degree, and that we are able to reach our personal, academic and athletic goals.

  • Samantha Ryan

    It’s very sad to see that such a biased article has been published. From my own experience and from speaking with athletes, current and retired, the coaching staff is nothing but supportive. While only being a first year, I think it is worth to mention that one of the main reasons I chose McGill was because of the coach, from personal experiences with the coach, as well as speaking with present and retired athletes. The whole team, athletes and coaches included, make the team atmosphere very positive and professional. As many others have already commented, it’s sad to see such a very clearly biased article posted on what is supposed to be a credible site.
    The services provided by McGill are nothing short from amazing. They are there to help student athletes thrive, if they chose to actually take advantage of them. From my experience so far the coaches and staff are very professional and continue to contribute to the incredible team atmosphere.

  • Tina Cai

    In my 5 years of knowing Peter, I have never felt as if my eating habits or body image were negatively influenced by him. Rather, he actually expressed concern when I have lost weight and encouraged me to eat more when I was under-eating. When I believed that weight loss lead to athleticism, he taught me otherwise with compassion and care. He encourages swimmers to make only what they want out of the sport; whether it’s rankings or an outlet for improving their mental health. Peter has provided to me endless support and access to resources, and is still my most trusted adult at McGill despite no longer being my coach.

  • Mohamed Mohamed

    As a first year, I have noting but great experiences and can’t imagine my life in mcgill without the team already. I love and enjoy every second of it. I think that no matter where and what people do, there will always be some that don’t like it. Reading this is 100% heartbreaking, it is the complete opposite of my experience. I could’t ask for a better coach. His seriousness and will to make us better everyday keeps us motivated as athletes
    Absolutely Love the coaches and the swimmers.

  • Joseph Perry

    As a current second year McGill swimmer, I can say that this article in no way reflects my experience at McGill Swimming. Over these past two years, I have come to know the coaches very well- and I will say that the coaches have treated me both carefully and morally. I hate to think that the readers of this article would make conclusive judgements about either the swim coaches, or my team based solely on this article. It is both one-sided and lacks personal accountability from its sources. This article does not represent McGill Swimming accurately.

  • Marija V.

    As a former member of this team, I found the allegations against the coaching staff very sad and a misrepresentation of my time at McGill. During my four years we were never put on a diet plan or routinely weighed (with the exception of our yearly physical). As varsity athletes and representatives of the school there were certain expectations that we agreed to – showing up to practice and meets, maintaining a lifestyle that would allow us to compete at the highest possible level, and being accountable to both ourselves and our teammates. We were not just individuals swimming by ourselves, we were members of a team of 30 people that were all competing towards the same goal. As athletes (and swimmers) most of us have grown up making sacrifices – missing out on parties/social events being an example. As someone who took my role on the team seriously, that wasn’t a ‘sacrifice’ that was something that I chose to do so that I could reach my full potential. If I was failing or struggling in my role as a varsity athlete, my coach was there to help me understand what the problem was and how we could go about resolving it together. The coaches on the swim team were involved in directing, instructing and training the members of our team, but they did much more than that. They spent more than 20hrs a week with us. They saw each of us deal with the struggles that come with being a young adult going through university. They provided us with a safe space to discuss challenges with school and with our personal lives and relationships. At the end of the day, they cared about us on a personal level and wanted all of us to succeed not only in the pool but in life as well. To all my coaches at McGill – thank you.

  • William Dixon

    I find it deeply upsetting that such a caring, well-meaning individual is being so grossly mischaracterized in this article. In over three years swimming at McGill, the coach has never “divulged information about [athletes’] personal and academic lives to the team”. Contrarily, he is the most understanding and supportive coach I’ve ever had. Any implication that McGill’s swim coach lacks professionalism when interacting with the team is categorically false and has not been experienced by myself.

  • Will Brothers

    As a former national team member and a student who competed for another extremely high ranking program in the country during my undergraduate degree before coming to McGill, I can confidently say that the coaching staff here is nothing but top-notch. I’ve dealt with dozens of high level coaches during my career and the coach, which these absurd allegations are made against, is one of the most supportive, positive and professional individuals that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. It saddens me to read such blatantly biased and unthought through journalism on a website that claims to have a “reputation for even-keeled reporting,” in its mission statement. I’d ask how the author and the editors of the McGill Tribune consider intentionally withholding supporting statements from dozens of current athletes “even-keeled,” in literally any sense of the phrase. So long as stinkpiece journalism is permitted to be published here, perhaps transitioning to a tabloid would better reflect not only your content, but the authorship capabilities of your contributors.

  • Kade Wist

    ok

  • briere

    As a former McGill Varsity swimmer who was on the team for two years, I can’t describe how much I disagree with the way this article presents the McGill swimming coaching staff. This is a clear example of bad journalism and a huge lack of professionalism. As someone who had health issues while on the swim team, I can’t even describe the amount of support I received from my team and also from the coaches. Peter Carpenter took his personal time during the weekend to come and see me in the hospital and make sure that I was fine. He is arguably one of the most dedicated individuals, to his job and his team, that I have ever seen across any field or profession. Very few people can understand how much Peter and the rest of the staff love this team and every single swimmer that is or has been a part of it. To see this type of article is profoundly hurtful for the people that know how far from the truth this is. I think that the author and McGill Tribune should be ashamed for publishing this.

  • Jason Galet

    I’d like to better understand how this article was published knowing that the author interviewed countless other current and past swimmers to validate these claims (myself included). As a member of the McGill Swim Team since 2015, I’m nothing short of shocked that such accusations could be made of a coach who goes above and beyond to maintain a healthy/positive environment for his team. Where are the voices of those who came forward to speak on behalf of the coach and this program? Why were so many interviews conducted to begin with if none of the information collected was going to be used in the final product?

  • Jennifer Harding

    I was a member of the McGill Varsity Swim Team from 2011-2013. Being a member of the McGill Varsity Swim Team was one of the highlights of my University experience. I would highly recommend the swimming program for any swimmer who wishes to enjoy swimming at the elite University level.

    The accusations in this article are clearly unfounded, frivolous, and vexatious. The McGill swimming coaches have never been inappropriate with me or any of my former teammates. They have always been respectful, supportive, dedicated and professional. The McGill swimming coaches were always helpful and provided valuable guidance throughout my years at University. I would have to attribute a lot of my success to the McGill swimming coaching staff for creating a friendly, supportive, motivating environment.

    Being a competitive athlete at University can at times be very demanding. It was understood and accepted by all elite swimmers that choosing to be a part of the team required a high level of commitment. Part of being on the team meant showing up to practice and giving your best. Like in any sport, practices & competitions can be difficult and athletes can be expected to be challenged both mentally and physically. McGill swimming has some of the best swimmers in Canada that are extremely dedicated to the sport. While at McGill, it was a honour to train amongst some of Canada’s best swimmers. Many members of our team went on to compete at the 2012 Olympic trials. One member of the team competed at the 2012 Para Olympic Games winning multiple medals. I know for a fact that many of my former teammates and current members of the McGill swimming team would agree that McGill swimming has excellent coaches and the swimming program is challenging yet equally rewarding.

    The McGill swimming coaching staff have won awards for their excellence in coaching. Their years of dedication to athletes and the sport of swimming should be celebrated. I am very appreciative for everything that the McGill swimming coaching staff has done for me.

    Shame on author Audrey Carleton and the McGill Tribune for publishing an article that fails to take into account the perspective of over 20++ athletes. After providing a written statement to the McGill Tribune, the Tribune didn’t ask me any questions, didn’t follow up and simply did nothing. I can’t believe that the author of this article works for the Globe and Mail. Journalists should uphold the principles of ethics and good practice seeking to report the truth. I can only hope that they will be held accountable for their actions.

  • Keelan Marks

    It is deeply upsetting that this article fails to take into consideration the dozens of current and former swimmers that came forward to refute these claims.

    As a graduate, former swimmer and donor to the school I used to occasionally browse The Tribune to keep up with McGill. Consider this the last article I read and the last time I visit the website.

    If the goal was to generate traffic to the website, well done. Simply reading the many comments above shows how grossly you misrepresented the truth in pursuit of readership with complete lack of journalistic integrity.

  • As a varsity swimmer of five years, a former U-Sport national champion, and a McGill grad student conducting research in the field of student-athlete health and well-being, I consider this to be a shocking misrepresentation of McGill’s swimming program and coaching practices. Particularly as I was among the 20+ former McGill swimmers asked to contribute my perspective towards the content of this article, it is disappointing that the author circumvented our voices to cater to a few individuals with an agenda stemming from their personal under-achievement as both students and athletes. The administrative team at McGill Athletics provides outstanding resources and support to their athletes despite the stringent financial resources that permeate our Canadian collegiate sport context. It is an injustice to both the existing program and its alumni to publish this defamatory writing substantiated by so little tangible evidence, and I sincerely hope you’ll reconsider its publication.

  • Peter Abrahamsen

    As an alumnus of McGill swimming I can whole-heartedly say that this article is a drastic misrepresentation of the program, the coaches, the sports psychologist and the athletics administration as a whole.

    This opinion piece is a clear biased attack lacking nuance as well as journalistic depth in terms of sources.
    To say this “article” is an objective piece which has sources and evidence from a diverse set of viewpoints would be a repudiation of both the word “objective” and the word “article”. The comments section should speak for itself… where were all of these testimonials during the comprehensive fact gathering that a journalist employs when presented with a lead?

    As a transfer student, the coaching staff never came off as anything except unbelievably supportive and caring for their athletes both in and out of the pool. The coach was willing to help me through tough times in my personal life as well as my athletic life without exception. I have never worked with a more caring, diligent and dedicated coach and staff in my life so far.

  • Zachary Pilling

    After taking a day to reflect over this article, I realized I could not have my voice be ignored once more by the author.

    As a graduate of the McGill swimming program in which I competed for from 2015 to 2018, I had the pleasure of having a coaching staff that has changed my varsity experience for the better. The program is based off of values including a strong team dynamic, communication, hard work and both physical and mental well-being. All of these values were adopted as a result of the coaching staff as well as the services implemented by them including a sport psychologists and a nutritionist.

    Over the past three years, I spent a great amount of time with the head coach one-on-one when we carpooled to practice every day. He has never told me private information about any other athlete. If anything, he would take the time to check in on me and make sure I was doing well in school, in training, and so on.

    As a former Vice President on the varsity council, I have heard from multiple sources in athletics how they admire his coaching ethics and how he cares for his athletes. In fact, as a current swimmer on the University of Ottawa team, I can still see this as he continues to show me support by cheering me on at cup meets and asking how I am doing. The points in this article do not match the true caring attitude that the head coach demonstrates.

  • Lucas Bonavia

    Having been a member of the swim team during this time (2014-2017), I agree with the other comments in this thread. This is a gross mischaracterization of the McGill swimming atmosphere during my tenure as a varsity athlete. For someone who has also suffered from body image issues in consequence of an extreme case of scoliosis, I can unequivocally say that the coaching staff has been nothing but supportive in terms of the swimmers’ well being and their mental health. In my experience, they were always available to hear the swimmers’ concerns, as well as help them with the many struggles facing a student-athlete. I always viewed the McGill swimming team as my family away from home.

    I would urge the author of this piece to consult the “Editorial Code of Conduct” webpage of her current employer, the Globe and Mail. The first stipulation under the Journalistic Principles section states the following: “The Globe and Mail will seek to provide reasonable accounts of competing views in any controversy so as to enable readers to make up their own minds.” Having consulted with more than 20 previous athletes who refuted the claims proposed in this hit piece and having intentionally omitted them in order to garner more internet traffic demonstrates that the author either A) has not read her own employer’s code of ethics or B) willfully ignored it. This is not only a serious mishandling of sources but an embarrassing level of journalistic integrity which should be reviewed by her employer and this publication’s ethics committee.

  • Saint Emerance

    Twenty-three comments: this is what closing ranks looks like. To be clear: there is no journalistic obligation to quote people who *don’t* have a problem with a person accused of wrongdoing. They tried to speak to the coach. This is like a parade of “well, Harvey Weinstein never assaulted me” from folks that were not in the demographic that Harvey Weinstein would have assaulted, or were just plain lucky. Your positive experiences on the team, or with this coaches, have no bearing on anyone else’s. Stop trying to pretend that there’s journalistic malpractice here: your opinions are background color, not evidence.

    • Tim

      There is a journalistic standard to give a fair and balanced look at the person(s) in question. I know modern journalism simply looks like you are “sticking it to the man” by writing hit pieces with minimal evidence, but that outlook is substantially contributing to the decline in trust in the media from the public. This is an unbalanced hit piece carrying with it little substantiating evidence other than claims that have been rebutted by numerous past and present members of the team.

      “Your opinions are background color at best, not evidence” sounds like you are discounting a vast number of women’s (and mens) lived experiences. If you can simply discount the 23 positive opinions because they don’t fit the narrative, well then conversations about serious issues can never be had. A phenomenal swimming coach is not Harvey Weinstein, and making that comparison is ridiculous.

      Let’s go after actual perpetrators, with actual evidence. Let’s return journalism to balanced and objective, rather than pointed hit pieces for the sake of ruining reputations. Let’s take the first step in bringing back a social fabric to our society where we can punish bad behavior and celebrate good acts. Every person above takes these allegations seriously, but every person above has tried to add more color to the situation and been ignored or told their experience “does not matter”. That isn’t a conversation, that’s mob justice and outrage culture at its worst.

      • Saint Emerance

        Actual evidence is the mutually-reinforcing testimony of the people who alleged malpractice against them. Not evidence is people who did not have malpractice against them. Back in high school, a guy in my social circle was a thief. That he never stole from me, that I never saw him steal from others, and he never told me he stole doesn’t change that: it only shows that he did not behave around me they way he did around others with similar relationships to him.

        This is a news article, not a sentencing hearing where character references are relevant. The news is that four people are making similar allegations. The relevant parties in this story are the person being accused, the people making the accusations and witnesses, if any. None of these commenters are claiming to be witnesses, so they aren’t evidence. They’re background colour and extraneous to the core of the story. You can use all the “lived experience” buzzwords you like, sleazy a tactic as that is in this context, but it doesn’t change anything about this as a piece of journalism. I’m sure the coach’s Mom is very fond of him too. Who cares?

        PS: You seem reasonably bright. Read the Weinstein sentence again, and tell me what subject the word “like” is working on.

        • Tim

          1) I hate this “It’s a news article not a trial” point. So we can just publish anything now? It’s not a trial so there is no required amount of proof? Since it isn’t a trial there is no obligation to tell a balanced story? That sounds like a really annoying world to live in. For example:

          I heard Saint Emerance eats live puppies… it has been alleged… it isn’t a trial so all I’ll say is it’s been alleged… no other proof necessary… but trust me…. Saint eats cute little puppy dogs. Never seen Saint eat a puppy? Seen behavior that is explicitly anti-puppy eating? Saint is even a member of PETA? Too bad! Multiple people have alleged it. Oh now Saint denies eating puppies? Hmmm… sounds like something a puppy eater would do!! Makes Saint even more likely to really eat puppies!!

          See how this could erode trust in the media? It’s a Salem witch trial in the court of public opinion. Not a particularly high burden of proof to slander someones image.

          2) Being a member of the team means being very close to team members and the coach. If he really acted this way, it wouldn’t have come down on 4 athletes over the course of a long career, many many many athletes would be in the same boat. Which is WHY listening to other experiences from other athletes who swim/swam for this coach is important. But alas, you maintain your position that those don’t matter, so we aren’t making much progress.

          3) Lived experience is a sleezy buzzword? Weird. I have been taught in university questioning lived experiences, especially from females, is a biiiiig no-no. The intersectionality gods are not pleased with you today, Saint!

          4) All fun and games aside, as I have said and you failed to rebut, we all take these allegations seriously. It is just very important with a story like this to give ALL the context so that the court of public opinion can reach a valid judgement. Who knows, maybe the coach is a sleezebag, but no one has the evidence necessary to make that judgement, specifically because a lot of that evidence was left out of the story.

          P.S. thanks, I changed my lightbulb this morning. We both know pulling the Harvey Weinstein card (even in the way you did) is waaay more of a “sleezy buzzword” than lived experience.

          • Saint Emerance

            Again, “lived experience” is not a sleezy (sic) buzzword. It is a buzzword, (calling something a buzzword does not necessarily mean the concept it embodies is invalid, by the way. How much handholding do I need to do in this conversation?) and your use of it to undermine the testimony of young women claiming malpractice by an authority figure is sleazy, given that it’s origin was to do the exact opposite. Again, this would be easier if were you able to keep track which adjectives were working on which nouns in any given sentence.

            You can make the case that non-witnesses MUST be quoted to attest to someone’s character in every case where they are accused of malpractice, but you will have a very hard time finding any reputable news organization that would agree with you, let alone any that do so as a rule.

            But hey, you like your coach. Good for you, good for him. Call these women liars and be done with it. Come up with a good reason why they would do so, while you’re at it: I’m sure it won’t be demeaning to them at all. Stop hiding behind a fake concern for journalism, and go after the people you’re really mad at.

          • Tim

            You’re intelligence amazes us all, Saint. You failed to respond to any of my points and simply stroked your own ego. Good debate tactics for a small person!

            Seeing logical fallacies in your own position is tough but important. My broader point has been this style of journalism is not good for discourse, I know it is the practice of those outlets and it is a bad practice.

            Hope something boosts your confidence soon 🙂 Merry Christmas!

          • Saint Emerance

            Your specific point, in your very first line is that there is a ” standard to give a fair and balanced look at the person(s) in question.” No: but you’re close. There is a standard to give a fair a balanced look at the issue under contention. In this case, it isn’t whether people like this coach, or whether he is terrible to everyone, but whether he did the things these women said he did to them. Being balanced includes giving reasonable space to those with relevant information on both sides. In this case, there are first hand accounts of specific events for which we have the testimony of four people, all of whom tell similar stories, and the opportunity to the coach to give his side of those events. If other people were witnesses to the event in question, then yes, their input should be included. People with no first hand knowledge of the issue under contention might be included as background, but it isn’t a requirement and in certain circumstances can stack the deck against one side (you know, like in cases where the accused has authority over an entire team and can call on it’s alumni network for support). In such cases, it is prudent to *only* stick to the principal players: that’s being fair. There’s certainly no obligation to quote every third party who shoves their way to the mike.

            “This style of journalism” is just journalism, and it has been practiced more-or-less this way for as long as people who don’t want certain things in print have been getting on their high horse about “journalism these days.”

            The only question that matters is not whether *other* people had good experiences with this coach, but whether *these women* are telling the truth about their experience. That’s the crux of the article. Anything else is, at best, background.

            Merry Christmas to you too!

    • Saint Emerance

      See, that’s the kind of character assassination I came here for! You have more guts than Tim, anyway.

  • Gabriella Doueihy

    I don’t know what’s most frustrating about this article: the fact that it painted a wrong image of the swimming team at McGill or the fact that it gave a wrong impression about our coach who worked and is still working so hard to do what’s best for each one of his athletes.
    As a second-year swimmer at McGill, and with my experience with many coaches throughout my career as a Lebanese national swimmer, I could definitely say that no one could wish for a better coach than Peter: no one could wish for a better support system.
    Some of my teammates once mentioned that they “owe their life to Peter”.
    He would never instruct us to do something if it isn’t for our own good; and specially if it isn’t what would get us closer to our goals: goals we want so badly to achieve. He respects each and every one of us, our opinions. He respects our privacy.
    Being a student-athlete is hard and demanding. Any student who decided to be part of this lifestyle knew that they would have to sacrifice many things. Having to follow a healthy living is an obligation for an athlete.
    It’s really sad that the one person who was always there to help, was the one attacked for someone else’s mistakes.

  • Grace Polkosnik

    As a senior in high school I came to McGill on a visit to see the school, meet the team, and gauge the environment I would potentially be immersing myself into the following year. I was immediately attracted to the atmosphere on deck, and the values promoted by the coach. Beyond his kind and caring demeanor, it was his holistic approach to swimming which convinced me that the team would be a good fit. His investment in each swimmer as an athlete, a student, and a person was obvious then and has become more apparent to me with each day I spend on the team. Along with my initial positive impressions, the coach was validated further through his far-reaching and excellent reputation, and ringing endorsements all the older team members. The outpouring of support that has resulted from this article is a testament to the positive and lasting mark he’s made on his athletes, past and present. Here at McGill, people will continue to hold him in high regard because they’ve had the opportunity to see how he conducts himself. The potential consequences of these defamatory accusations are more likely to affect the team in the future, serving as a deterrent to prospective athletes in the coming years. I hope incoming swimmers and those reading this article can look past such a one-sided and biased accounting.

  • Erin Miller

    Even though this is my first year at McGill, I have had nothing but positive experiences on this team. One of the main reasons I am here at McGill is because of my meeting with the coach during my campus visit. I could tell upon meeting and speaking with him that my time at McGill, both as a student and an athlete, would be wonderful because of his passion, kindness, and support. The coaching staff as a whole is kind and supportive. They spend time with, and give attention to, every single athlete on the team. It makes me so sad to see that my new school newspaper would so grossly misrepresent one of the most dedicated, hard-working and supportive people I have ever met. I cannot even begin to express my thankfulness for the support and understanding this team and coach has provided me with this year.

  • Kyle

    I’ve reported Julia’s comment 4 times in the past 24 hours and it’s an absolute disgrace it has not been removed. It’s disgusting, and it has exposed the names of your sources for at least a day now. Numerous comments from girls likely in similar social circles have commented since, so now their names have likely been exposed to all interested parties. I didn’t for a second question the author’s journalistic integrity until this. Your BIGGEST duty in writing an exposè like this is protecting the identity of your sources, clearly you haven’t done a good job of that in your writing, but neglecting to control the comment section from posts like Julia’s is an even worse crime. Please get rid of that comment, and consider re-posting this article in a way that actually protects your sources. Perhaps it’s even too late for that at this point. Pathetic.

  • Every young journalist dreams of writing a brilliant exposé that explodes like a bombshell and reveals a corrupt system. The problem is that it is hard. In this case the writer didn’t bother to do her due diligence. She relied on biased sources, allowed her confirmation bias to guide her, and cherry-picked information to support a sensationalistic story. This should be used as a model for what NOT to do. The Tribune owes the coach, the team, and the school an immediate apology and a retraction…. and they should print what the coaches, swimmers, and athletics administrators said when they were interviewed. You cannot characterize the “environment” of a team without listening carefully to the whole team. If the Tribune likes this sort of trashy journalism, I am sure there are some disgruntled students with bad marks and few friends who would gladly describe McGill as an abusive school with insensitive profs. Wouldn’t that be a juicy story!

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