Gymnastics coach charged with allegedly sexually assaulting teen girl

A gymnastics coach has been charged with numerous sexual offences involving a teen girl, police west of Toronto said Tuesday.

Peel regional police say they were approached earlier this year by a 15-year-old girl from the area who reported multiple allegations of sexual misconduct over a four-year period.

The accused was the girl’s coach at the time of the alleged incidents, police said, and he has since been suspended by both Gymnastics Canada and its provincial affiliate, Gymnastics Ontario.

Scott McFarlane, 28, of Mississauga, Ont., faces one count each of sexual assault, sexual interference, luring a child under 16 years old, making sexually explicit material available to a child under 16 years of age and indecent exposure to a child.

Police say McFarlane worked as a coach in Mississauga, as well as Ottawa, Oakville, Ont., and Western Canada, though they did not provide further details.

They have said there may be other alleged victims and are urging anyone with information to come forward.

Dave Sandford, CEO of Gymnastics Ontario, said in a phone interview that the allegations that led to charges against McFarlane were the second set of accusations levelled against him.

He wouldn’t discuss details of the first complaint, but said that in October the organization suspended McFarlane for three months because of it, as per the organization’s policies.

After the first set of allegations, Sandford said, there was a second complaint and the matter escalated to police.

Sandford wouldn’t say whether the separate reports came from one person or from two.

In December, similar criminal charges were brought against Dave Brubaker, who was the women’s national gymnastics team director. He was charged with one count of invitation to sexual touching, three counts of sexual interference, three counts of sexual exploitation, and three counts of sexual assault.

Earlier that same month, Gymnastics Canada suspended an Edmonton-based coach amid allegations he sexually abused at least three gymnasts in Quebec when they were minors in the 1980s and early ’90s.

Gymnastic Canada said Tuesday that safety was a key focus.

“Our top priority is building a safe environment for our participants by enhancing the policies and mechanisms we have in place so that our athletes and coaches are safe and secure and so parents feel confident that their children are safe,” Richard Crepin, the chair of Gymnastic Canada’s board of directors, said in a statement.

“We will not rest until this type of behaviour no longer finds a home in the sport of gymnastics.”

Spokeswoman Julie Forget said the organization has been in the process of updating its policies on coach background checks and athlete safety since April 2017 — well before the latest slew of allegations — but that the charges have lent a new urgency to their plan.

The updated policies will ensure standards are the same for its provincial affiliates across the country, she said. Currently, all of the provinces have their own policies for dealing with safety, but the national organization wants one policy to apply across the board.

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