A Toxic and Fearful Culture at Boxing Canada; an omerta and a culture of silence for more than 10 years to discourage those who want to publicly denounce the existing structure; physical and psychological abuse felt by some boxers within the national team. A group of 121, including former athletes, coaches, officials and members of provincial organizations, are issuing a letter denouncing the practices of Boxing Canada leaders who have remained in office for years despite the lack of success in the field. international scene and the absence of an Olympic medal for 25 years.
They demand the immediate departure of the high performance director, Daniel Trépanier, without directly mentioning him in the letter sent to the media and ministers on Wednesday morning. They also want Sport Canada to conduct a thorough investigation into Boxing Canada and its practices. According to the 121 signatories, these measures are necessary to “eliminate the toxic culture of Boxing Canada so that the federation can become a safe, fair and transparent organization that aims to create Olympic champions”.
The letter states that while the issues have been reported on numerous occasions, they have been ignored. According to the letter, Boxing Canada’s board of directors received confidential testimony last year, which, however, did not lead to any investigation. “Despite recent superficial changes in the organizational structure,” it reads, “there is no evidence that the concerns of athletes and their coaches have been allayed.”
Dangerous and disrespectful practices
According to the signatories, Boxing Canada lacks transparency and impartiality, leading them to question “the amounts arbitrarily paid for matches and training” and directly blame the high performance director. They believe that the selection procedures for the national teams were based on favoritism and not on the results of the battles. For this reason, some boxers left amateur boxing to turn to professional boxing.
More seriously, they mention that the high performance director forced them to train or fight in unsafe conditions, despite symptoms of concussion. Some athletes are also said to have competed in practice matches against other athletes of distinctly different categories.
The Federation also allegedly ignored repeated complaints about homophobic, misogynistic and sexist comments from Boxing Canada program leaders.
An Olympian testifies
The signatories are anonymous “for fear of reprisals”. But one of the athletes who represented Canada at the final Olympic boxing tournament agreed to confide in RDS hoping to bring a wind of change.
Myriam Da Silva was one of 5 boxers (4 women and 1 man) to represent Canada at the Tokyo Games last summer. She only had one fight in the under 69 kg category, where she was dominated by rival Maria Moronta of the Dominican Republic. She explains that she was destroyed physically and psychologically by her pre-Olympic camp in Montreal.
“Daniel used the pandemic to say we had no training partners. On many occasions I have delivered “test matches” and training rounds with Tammara Thibeault (bronze medalist at the world championships in the under 75 kg category). We have 15 pounds difference! She’s a foot taller than me! But on paper, Daniel had proved that Tammara was the best training partner for me. Yet Thibault and Moronta do not have the same profile! I didn’t want to do trial matches with her, I didn’t want to do practice rounds and I’ve said that so many times. And at the last test match, 6 weeks before the Olympics, I collapsed. And all they could do the following week was isolate me from the group, as I was clearly not feeling well. He took me. They didn’t help me. †
“I was broken, they didn’t help me!”
The Quebec boxer, who has since left the national team, explains that she barely remembers her Olympics. “I don’t know how I did it, I don’t remember, I wasn’t there. After the Games, she watched her fight and the subsequent interview, and she remembers her feelings at that moment. “In the interview I was asked what had happened. I rolled my eyes and to me it meant “HELP, HELP”. I just wanted to leave! †
After her fight, the then 37-year-old athlete was isolated in her room for 24 hours, without eating or drinking. Meanwhile, one of the Canadian team’s coaches, John Mbumba, mocked his boxer’s performance on social media. Mbumba was then evicted from the Olympic village before the end of the boxing tournament. Mbumba succeeded Joao Carlos Soares Gomes de Barros for the Tokyo Games. Boxing Canada is currently in the process of finding a new national team coach.
At these Games, only Thibeault and Caroline Veyre won a fight for Canada, but their path stopped at the foot of the podium in their respective categories. Thibeault is still on the national team and preparing to compete in the World Championships. Like Da Silva, Veyre left the national team, although she first expressed her wish to qualify for the 2024 Games. Mandy Bujold announced her retirement two weeks ago.